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Poll indicates widespread discontent among Montana voters

by Daily Inter Lake
| November 12, 2023 12:00 AM

’Tis the season. 

Yes, the holidays are quickly approaching, but we’re talking about poll season.

Every November, a plethora of public opinion surveys flood the media landscape as prognosticators attempt to foretell upcoming election results and measure the temperature of the electorate.

Montana State University Billings last week released its 36th edition of the Mountain States Poll that looks at Montana, and the findings aren’t exactly surprising. A stale bran muffin might be more popular among voters than Congress, with the approval scores for Montana’s congressional delegation about as favorable as another roundabout on the Kalispell bypass.

Conducted Oct. 2-13, the poll received 657 valid responses out of 4,900 phone calls. It has a margin of error of 3.82%.

Mirroring national surveys, most Montanans remain entirely unimpressed with President Joe Biden, offering a paltry 27% approval rating for the first-term Democrat. Along party lines, 8% of Republicans approve of the president’s performance, while 8% of Democrats disapprove. Biden is even struggling with self-described independent voters, who could only muster a 22% approval rating for the so-called moderate president. 

For comparison, former President Trump’s approval rating was 52% in the college’s poll conducted October 2020, just prior to the election he lost to Biden.

It gets worse for Congress as a whole. Mountain States Poll respondents pegged Capitol Hill’s approval rating at 13%, which is actually down from 16% in the 2022 Mountain States Poll. Left, right, up, down — nobody is happy with Washington, D.C. and there are no signs that attitude is changing.

On the Montana political landscape, respondents gave Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke a 36% approval score. Men are more favorable to Zinke than women (54% to 23%), with his popularity highest among the 30-44 age group (45%) and with those with four-year college degrees (49%). Independents were most likely to say they neither approve or disapprove of the congressman’s performance.

Rep. Matt Rosendale’s overall approval is the lowest among the state’s delegation at 32%. The Freedom Caucus member, who twice held up the Republican’s House Speaker vote, is most popular with older voters over 65. 

Sen. Steve Daines has the highest approval at 40%, followed by Sen. Jon Tester at 39%. Tester’s disapproval rating of 30%, however, is considerably higher than Daines’ 19%.

Up for reelection in 2024, Tester is more favorable with men than women (45% to 35%), and with those ages 30-44 (55%). He scores highest among those with college degrees.

One bright spot in the survey, Gov. Greg Gianforte scored a solid 49% favorable rating, notably with Democrat respondents offering the first-term Republican a generous 25% approval.

It’s important to remember the Mountain States Poll is merely a snapshot in time, and that past elections have repeatedly shown that opinion surveys should be taken with a snowplow-sized load of salt.

Still, Montana’s delegation must take note of their overall lousy scores. With not a single approval rating over 50%, it’s clear that voters continue to be overwhelmingly disgruntled, and for understandable reasons.

Acceptance of that discontent as the norm would be a fine example of pitiful leadership from the elected officials we’ve entrusted with carrying the voice of Montana in the halls of Congress.