University Relations and Communications

Montanans sound off on Obama, healthcare issues in latest MSU Billings poll

November 1, 2011



Dr. Craig Wilson, Political Science, 657-2995
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Citizens have unfavorable view of both president and Congress


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — While Montanans generally have an unfavorable view of the job performance of President Barack Obama, they don’t think Congress is doing any better, according to a new poll done by Montana State University Billings.


“People don’t like Obama’s policies, but many more people say they don’t like the way Congress doing things,” said Dr. Craig Wilson, professor of political science at MSU Billings and one of the co-directors of the poll.


The job performance views and other statewide issues were released Tuesday. The poll was conducted through a statewide random sample telephone survey on Oct. 17-21 with 411 adult Montanans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.


Wilson and co-directors Dr. Cathy Grott (who teaches a sociology methodology class at MSU Billings) and Dr. Scott Rickard (director of the Center for Applied Economic Research) talked about the results during a press conference at the university. Poll results on statewide election preferences and other issues will be released Wednesday morning.


This is the 23rd year the annual survey has been done by MSU Billings and students involved in the political science and sociology programs.


In results that fairly mirror public opinion surveys done on a national level, the new MSU Billings poll shows Montanans generally disapprove of the work being done by both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. For example, 57.5 percent of respondents in this year’s poll disapproved of the job President Obama is doing. In 2009 and 2010, the numbers were at 53 percent.


As far as the job performance of Congress, 76.9 percent of the respondents said they have a negative opinion of how Congress is operating today. And when asked the question “Whom do you hold more responsible for the U.S. budget’s annual deficit,” 58.5 percent of the poll respondents said Congress while 9.5 percent said President Obama. Another 28.3 percent said both were responsible.

An interesting aside, however, Wilson pointed out that there is a difference between how Montanans view the president’s policies and how they view him personally. While 32 percent of the poll’s respondents said they approved of his performance, 46 percent said they liked him on a personal basis.


“They may not like what he’s doing as a president, but on a personal level, they like him,” Wilson said.


He noted that when President Obama gives policy speeches or press conferences, he very much seems to be the “professor in chief,” which could be off-putting for some voters. But when he is on the campaign trail and in front of crowds, he seems to take on a more personal tone.


“That could very well play a big role in the presidential race,” he said. “And you can never sell a sitting president short.”

photo of press conference on the MSUB campus


In other poll results, Grott said many Montanans are skeptical of healthcare legislation passed by Congress. The poll showed 66.5 percent of the respondents said healthcare legislation will make delivery of healthcare worse than currently exists. Of those taking the poll, 48.5 percent of Democrats said they believed the legislation wouldmake healthcare “much better” while 86.3 percent of the Republicans said the law would make healthcare “much worse.”


“We say that intensity of those types of splits in all the races and questions,” she said.


Wilson and Grott said while the annual survey captures a slice of time and opinion, it is reflective if the current state of affairs in the country.


“I wasn’t surprised (by the results) simply because the results mirror what we see nationally,” Wilson said.


Grott noted that gender had a smaller effect on results this year because of the wide split in the numbers. Had some of the poll numbers been closer together, then gender differences would have provided some statistical significance.


The full results of the poll can be found at


PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Craig Wilson, left, and Dr. Cathy Grott talk about the results of the annual MSU Billings poll at a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 1 at MSU Billings. The poll is an annual project of MSU Billings political science and sociology students.