Montanans strongly disapprove of President Barack Obama's overall job performance, according to a poll recently conducted by Montana State University Billings.

Of the 411 state residents surveyed, nearly 58 percent disapproved and only 32 percent approved of the job the president is doing.

But Congress fared even worse.

Nearly 77 percent of those surveyed had a negative view of Congress; less than 10 percent had a positive impression.

This is the 26th public opinion poll done by MSU Billings political science and sociology students over 23 years.

The first part of the poll was released Tuesday.

Students conducted telephone surveys during the third week in October under the direction of political science professor Craig Wilson, sociology instructor Cathy Grott, and Scott Rickard, director of the Center for Applied Economic Research at MSU Billings.

The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Montanans polled expressed an even greater disapproval of Obama when asked about how the president was managing the economy.

More than 67 percent said Obama was doing a bad job on the economy, while about 21 percent said he was doing a good job.

The president fared a little better in foreign affairs. Poll respondents were nearly evenly split, 40 to 41 percent, between those who said Obama was doing a good job and those who thought he has done a bad job on foreign relations.

When asked if Congress or the president was responsible for the U.S. budget deficit, more than 58 percent blamed Congress. Less than 10 percent blamed the president, and more than 28 percent held both responsible.

In general, the president's poor showing in the poll is reflective of national polls, Wilson said.

A poll is a description of how people feel at one point in time, Grott said Tuesday, adding that opinions can be different in a year.

It's still too early to predict the outcome of the 2012 presidential election on current polls, Wilson said.

The MSU Billings poll also showed that many people like Obama, even if they disagree with his policies. Obama also has amassed a large financial war chest for the campaign.

"Don't sell a sitting president short," Wilson said.

The poll also showed a continuing slide in support for the war in Afghanistan. This year, more than 46 percent of Montanans oppose and 40 percent support the decision to go to war in Afghanistan. In the 2010 MSU Billings poll, nearly 52 percent supported it.

A majority of those responding said the U.S. is not winning the Afghan war.

The poll also showed a strong dislike of health care legislation passed by Congress.

Asked if they felt the legislation would make health care better or worse, nearly 67 percent said it would make it worse.

The most common answer was 1, on a scale of 1 to 10, showing the intensity of feeling against the health care package, Wilson said.

This year, the poll included cellphone and land-line numbers to reach a broad cross section of residents. Pollsters also made about 1,200 more phone calls to include more residents in the 18-29 age category to more accurately reflect their demographic representation.

The second section of the poll, which includes questions about how state residents might vote in statewide races next year, will be released Wednesday.

MSU Billings is the only school in the state giving students real polling experience, Grott said.

Contact Mary Pickett at mpickett@billingsgazette.com or 657-1262.

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