HELENA — Republican Mitt Romney leads Democratic President Barack Obama by nine percentage points in Montana, a Gazette State Poll shows.
The poll results showed Romney with 51 percent, Obama with 42 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson with 2 percent. Five percent of the voters were undecided.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C., last week interviewed 625 registered Montana voters who said they expect to vote in the November election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, with margins higher for subgroups like gender.
“Obviously, Romney is pretty solid in Montana,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Besides the ballot matchup, voters were asked if they recognized the names of Romney and Obama, and if so, whether they have a favorable, unfavorable or neutral impression of each of them.
Results showed 46 percent had a favorable opinion of Romney, while 36 percent had an unfavorable impression. Eighteen percent had a neutral opinion about the former Massachusetts governor.
More Montana voters had an unfavorable opinion of Obama than had a favorable one. The poll showed 49 percent had an unfavorable opinion, while 41 percent had a favorable one. Ten percent had a neutral opinion.
In the 2008 presidential election, Obama mounted an aggressive effort in Montana, campaigning in several cities his hotly contested primary with Hillary Clinton and visiting Butte with his family on July 4. His campaign also mounted a strong general election effort.
Republican nominee John McCain narrowly beat Obama in Montana in 2008, 49 percent to 47 percent.
The 2012 poll showed that male voters favored Romney over Obama by 56 percent to 34 percent, with 7 percent undecided and Johnson at 3 percent.
Among female voters, Obama had 49 percent to Romney’s 47 percent. Three percent were undecided, and 1 percent backed Johnson.
By party, Democrats overwhelmingly backed Obama, 93 percent to 4 percent, with 3 percent undecided.
Republicans by a large margin backed Romney by 95 percent to 1 percent, with 4 percent undecided.
Among independents, 51 percent were for Romney, 33 percent for Obama and 11 percent undecided. Five percent were for Johnson.
By region, Romney dominated Obama in the Eastern Montana, Billings, Great Falls and Missoula-Kalispell media markets. Only in the Butte-Helena-Bozeman media market did Obama top Romney.
Some of the people polled agreed to be interviewed later by Gazette State Bureau reporters. They had sharply divided opinions about Romney and Obama.
“I think it would be a total disaster if Obama got re-elected,” said Lorraine Johnson, of Plentywood.
“I just don’t like him. The national debt, and the fact that he never bothered to come up with a budget. The way he mandates the immigration thing and just bypasses the law and doesn’t go through Congress at all. ... It’s all like he’s trying to be a dictator, and I’m just scared to death of him.
“I think Romney knows what he’s doing. He’s certainly got to be better than Obama. I think (Romney) could be more forceful and concentrate on the issues. As far as I’m concerned, Mickey Mouse would be better than Obama.”
But David Pugh, a retired National Park Service employee living in Philipsburg, sees it just the opposite.
“I think he’s got a better feel for the country,” Pugh said of Obama. “I think he’s more compassionate. I think his opponent Romney has lived in a gilded cage his entire life, and I don’t think he understands what the single mother who’s trying to raise two kids is going through or the 18-year-old who’s trying to get an education.”
Frederick Jensen, of Scobey, part-owner of a lumber store and a former bar owner, said he backs Romney.
“I think we pretty much need someone else in there,” he said. “You’ve got to have someone in there who has run businesses before. He’s got a good background in running businesses.”
Carol Finnicun, a former insurance worker from Joliet, disagrees.
“I’m going to be voting for Obama, and the main reason is that I don’t see that the Republicans have done squat for any of us,” she said.
Gary Rose, a retired school facilities and transportation manager from Kalispell, favors Romney.
“I’m conservative,” he said. “I’m a Romney guy because I want less government and more fiscally conservative policies to get our deficit under control.”
Donna Mitchell, a retired public employee from Polson, says she supports Obama.
“When he took over in ’09, the country was broken,” Mitchell said. “It took Bush eight years to break the country, and you don’t fix it in four years. Obama needs to have another four years before the Republicans break it again.
“I won’t vote for the Republicans of today. I used to vote for a lot of Republicans, and they were good people. Now they don’t have good people. I don’t think Romney’s a good person. ... I don’t think he can tell the truth. I call him a wind sock. I think his character is defined by an insatiable greed, and I don’t like greed.”