Baucus approval rating slides in MSUB poll

2009-11-16T16:45:00Z Baucus approval rating slides in MSUB pollMARY PICKETT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
November 16, 2009 4:45 pm  • 

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus’ approval rating dropped significantly this year over two years ago in a Montana State University Billings poll released Monday.

Just 44 percent of those polled approved of the job that the Montana Democrat is doing. Forty percent disapproved of the Montana Democrat’s job performance.

That’s a big difference from 2007, when more than 64 percent approved of his job performance.

That change, in part, may be the result of Baucus’ position as chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that puts him in the middle of the debate over health-care reform.

“It’s controversial and not yet decided,” said Craig Wilson, MSU Billings political science professor.

The land-line telephone poll of 414 people across the state was conducted by students in political science and sociology classes taught by Wilson and Dan Lennon, a sociology assistant professor.

The poll had a plus-or-minus margin of error of 5 percent.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., fared better, with 56 percent of those polled saying he was doing a good job and 25 percent disapproving.

In 2007, 57 percent of those polled approved of Tester’s job performance.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., had a 54 percent approval rating, down from his 59 percent approval in 2007.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer had the highest approval rating with 62 percent of Montanans liking the governor’s performance and 20 percent disapproving.

There was a strong link between how people viewed President Obama’s performance and that of the state’s politicians.

In the case of Baucus and Tester, most Montanans who disapproved of the job that President Obama is doing also didn’t like the senators’ job performance.

Most of those who liked Rehberg’s performance also strongly disagreed with the job Obama was doing.

Wilson noted a shift in responses to a question asking people for whom they would vote to  representative them in the Montana House of Representatives if an election were held today.

This year, 42 percent said they would vote Republican and 28 percent Democratic. Last year, nearly 43 percent of likely voters said they’d vote for a Democrat and nearly 41 percent a Republican.

In response to other questions:

  • 44 percent supported and 45 percent opposed a voter initiative to change the Montana Constitution to say when life begins and that essentially would ban abortion.
  • 61 percent opposed expanding casino gambling on Native American reservations.
  • 90 percent said that cell phone texting while driving should be illegal.
  • 64 percent said the law banning smoking in restaurants hasn’t changed going to these restaurants.
  • 54 percent said that grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park should be protected on the endangered-species list.
  • 75 percent said hunts for gray wolves should be allowed.
  •  50 percent said wilderness areas should be expanded in Montana.
  • 68 percent opposed legalizing marijuana for personal use.
  • 64 percent said they read a newspaper every day in print or on line.

The second part of the poll dealing with President Obama’s job performance will be released Tuesday.

Contact Mary Pickett at or 657-1262.

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