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Kathleen Williams and U.S. Rep Greg Gianforte

Kathleen Williams and U.S. Rep Greg Gianforte

Democrat Kathleen Williams is leading Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte in the only public poll so far for Montana’s U.S. House race, while incumbent Sen. Jon Tester outpolls Republican challenger Matt Rosendale.

The Gravis Marketing survey of likely voters gives Williams a 6 percent advantage over the incumbent Gianforte, a former tech magnate turned politician. A former state legislator and conservationist, Williams prevailed June 5 in a six-candidate Democratic primary, in which she won 34 percent of the vote. Both candidates live in Bozeman.

Voters were asked whom they would vote for if the election were held today.

Tester, a two-term Democrat with past election victory margins tighter than his flattop haircut, had 7 percent advantage over Rosendale, Montana’s state auditor.

Tester has never received 50 percent of the vote in Montana, though he's twice defeated proven Republican winners in former Sen. Conrad Burns, a three-term incumbent, and later former Rep. Denny Rehberg, elected five times to the U.S. House before challenging Tester in 2012. In both years Tester claimed Senate wins, Montana voters elected Republicans to the House.

Gravis polled 469 registered Montana voters who indicated they were likely to vote in 2018 midterms. The polling occurred June 11-13 and posed questions on subjects ranging from elections to the FBI investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent. Voters were conducted using an online panel of cellphone users and interactive voice responses, Gravis reported.

FiveThiryEight, a statistics-driven website operated by statistician and former New York Times analyst Nate Silver, gives Gravis a C+ rating for the accuracy of the Florida-based firms polls, which were right 67 percent of the time based on the results of 108 polls.

This is the first public poll of the Montana midterms. The poll was paid for by Gravis Marketing.

Results for Montana’s at-large U.S. House race were most surprising, given Democrats haven’t won the seat in 22 years. In 2017, when Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a U.S. House special election, Gravis had 50 percent of likely voters supporting Gianforte, who prevailed with 49.9 percent of the vote.

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Additionally, Gravis shows 50 percent of Montana voters strongly approving or somewhat approving of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while 47 percent strongly disapproved or somewhat disapproved. The numbers lined up with a Morning Consult report of Trump’s job performance done with Montana voters in May.

Montanans generally approved of the jobs their Democratic elected officials were doing. For Tester, roughly 54 percent of voters surveyed strongly approved or somewhat approved of his job performance. Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, did best with 56 percent of voters strongly approving or somewhat approving of his job.

Rosendale received 40 percent support from voters who somewhat approved or strongly approved of his job performance, while Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, received 41 percent support from those who approved or strongly approved of his performance. In the poll, Rosendale and Daines had fewer people who strongly approved of the jobs they did, and more who somewhat approved.

Only 38 percent of voters polled said they were more likely to support a candidate who would vote to impeach President Trump. Voters, 46 percent, said they would be less likely to support a candidate they knew would support California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, as House speaker.

Opinions of the Republican Congress’ 2017 tax reform bill were mixed with 34 percent approving of the bill and 38 percent disapproving with 28 percent uncertain.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.