University Relations and Communications

Montanans point to terrorism as most important issue, latest MSU Billings poll shows

December 7, 2015 


Joshua Poulette, Social Sciences & Cultural Studies, 657-2928,
University Relations & Communications, 657-2266, 794-7485


The poll is in its 27th year and is conducted by MSUB students


Montana Poll 2015

 Dr. Joshua Poulette, center, political science major Blair Koch, left, and criminal justice major Jacob Cattnach present the 2015 Montana Poll on Monday afternoon.



MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montanans believe the most important issue facing the nation is terrorism, according to a new poll done by Montana State University Billings.


“It should be taken into consideration that the poll was taken just days following the attacks in Paris,” said Dr. Joshua Poulette, a professor of political science at MSU Billings and the director of the poll. “The response may have been different had the question been asked a week prior.”


Twenty-four percent identified terrorism while 9 percent identified the economy, 8 percent said the federal debt, 11 percent the government and 8 percent pointed to immigration as the most important problem facing the United States, Poulette said.


The poll, now in its 27th year, was conducted by 12 MSUB students through a statewide random sample telephone survey Nov. 16-23 with 435 adult Montanans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.


Poulette and students Blair Koch, political science, and Jacob Cattnach, criminal justice, released the poll results Monday afternoon to a group of students, staff and faculty.


About 38 percent of people interviewed said they believe the U.S. should only be moderately involved in foreign conflicts and crises, while about 36 percent said the U.S. should be involved, but in a limited way.


On the question of whether the nation should admit refugees, 47 percent thought the U.S is taking in too many political refugees, while 24 percent thought the refugee intake was about the right amount.


Nearly 64 percent of respondents said they oppose the Obama administration’s executive agreement with Iran on nuclear technology

Overall, about 67 percent of Montanans disapprove of the President’s overall performance, while 28 percent approve and 5 percent remained undecided.


Among the significant issues for Montanans:

  • The poll shows that 65 percent of people interviewed said they believe that gun laws in Montana are about right, while 17 percent say the laws are not strict enough and about 13 percent say they are too strict.
  • When asked about a potential marijuana legalization policy in Montana, 54 percent of respondents said they oppose the proposal, while 38 percent support it.
  • Sixty percent of respondents say the Affordable Care Act has had a negative impact on Montana.

About presidential candidates for the 2016 Presidential Election:

  • Asked of republicans and independents who lean republican which republican nominee would they support, 22 percent chose Donald Trump, 19 percent support Ben Carson, while 14 percent sided with Ted Cruz and 14 percent Marco Rubio.
  • Nearly 47 percent of democrats and independents who lean democratic support Hillary Clinton and about 30 percent support Bernie Sanders.
  • In a presidential matchup between Trump and Clinton, 51 percent of respondents support Trump, 30 percent support Clinton and 19 percent did not have an opinion.
  • In the scenario of Sanders verses Trump, 46 side with Trump while 40 percent support Sanders.

“The most surprising outcome in the poll for me was the weakness of Hillary Clinton relative to Bernie Sanders among Montanans,” Poulette said. “The closest Montana would come to a democratic win would be between Trump and Sanders, with just a 6 percent difference.” Trump receives 46 percent support, while Sanders receives 40 percent.


Twelve students in upper-level political science and sociology classes participated in the interview process, Poulette said.


»» Read the full results of the poll