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Death penalty poll

HELENA — A solid majority of Montanans oppose repealing the state’s death penalty, and a majority favors relaxing environmental law to encourage more coal, oil and gas development in the state, a Gazette state oll shows.

The poll, taken last week, also showed support among Montanans for a “right to work” law, which would forbid contracts that require labor-union membership or dues for certain jobs.

And, more Montanans oppose than support the idea of state tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, the poll showed.

The Gazette State Bureau hired Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., to poll 625 registered Montana voters who said they are likely to vote in the upcoming general election.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

The poll surveyed Montanans on how they planned to vote on key races in the Nov. 6 election, but also asked their opinion on several key issues facing the state.

The results included:

Death penalty: By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Montanans surveyed opposed repealing the state’s death penalty for certain crimes, as 57 percent opposed repealing the penalty and 30 percent supported repeal. Thirteen percent were undecided.

The Montana Legislature, in recent sessions, has rejected bills that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. Montana has only two convicted murderers on death row.

Regulations and fossil fuel development: The poll asked whether Montana should relax its regulatory and environmental laws to encourage more development of fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas.

Fifty-two percent of those polled said yes; 39 percent said no and 9 percent were undecided.

Right-to-work: Of those polled, 49 percent said they support making Montana a “right to work” state, while 40 percent said they did not. Eleven percent were undecided.

Right-to-work laws forbid labor unions from negotiating contracts with employers that would require its workers to belong to a union or support the union with dues. Most Montana Republican candidates have supported right-to-work laws, while Democrats oppose it.

Tax credits for private education: Forty-five percent of those polled said they oppose offering state tax credits to parents who send their kids to private schools, 38 percent said they support such credits, and 17 percent were undecided.

Rick Hill, the Republican candidate for governor, supports creating a state tax credit for donations to a private foundation that would offer scholarships to children attending private schools.

In three of the four questions, the responses of men and women who were polled greatly differed.

A majority of women said environmental regulations should not be relaxed to encourage fossil fuel development; women were split on whether Montana should be a right-to-work state; and women strongly opposed tax credits to support private-school students.

Men overwhelmingly wanted to relax the environmental regulations, strongly supported right-to-work legislation, and supported the tax credits, by a 46 percent to 36 percent margin.

Those who identified themselves as Democrats and Republicans also differed dramatically in their responses, while those who said they are independents generally reflected the overall result of the poll on each question.

Fifty percent of Democrats polled supported repealing the death penalty, while only 12 percent of Republicans did.

Democrats opposed relaxing environmental regulations by a more than 2-to-1 margin, while Republicans favored weaker regulations by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

Republicans favored a right-to-work law by a nearly 5-to-1 margin, and Democrats opposed it nearly 3-to-1.

On the issue of tax credits to support private-school students, Democrats opposed them by a 3-to-1 margin and Republicans supported it by a 2-to-1 margin.