FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mar. 1, 2023
Brandon DeMars, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Lockridge, email@example.com
Middle Fork Poll: Legislature Out of Step with Montanans on State Budget Surplus Plans, Changes to Constitution
New poll shows high levels of support for investment in affordable housing, education, and critical services, while a majority of Montanans oppose amending constitutional rights
(Helena, Mont.) – A new statewide public opinion poll released by the independent advocacy organization Middle Fork Strategies shows a majority of Montanans strongly disagree with plans like the one touted by Governor Greg Gianforte and the legislative majority for addressing the state’s $2.5 billion budget surplus.
Fifty-seven percent of Montana voters instead prefer a plan that directly invests in affordable housing, tax cuts for working families, public education, and critical public services like mental healthcare. Conversely, only 36 percent support a plan like the one Gov. Gianforte has proposed, which focuses tax cuts disproportionately on top-earning Montanans and includes no direct investment in affordable housing.
Other key takeaways from the poll include:
More than six-in-10 Montanans believe the state’s schools are inadequately funded.
71 percent oppose tax dollars being reallocated from public schools to private and religious education.
84 percent of respondents believe that some of Montana’s budget surplus should be invested in nursing homes and long-term senior care after 11 such facilities have closed in the last year.
88 percent support maintaining and protecting Montana’s successful Medicaid expansion program.
“It’s clear from these results that the people running the show in Helena are completely out of step with the rest of Montana,” said Brandon DeMars, Middle Fork’s executive director. “Montanans want the legislature to tackle the real problems they’re facing, like affordable housing, underfunded schools, and senior care facilities closing in communities across the state. Montanans want leadership, not lip service and more tax giveaways for the rich.”
In addition to the state budget and surplus, the poll also examined Montanans’ opinions on a number of other top issues being debated by the 2023 Legislature, including proposed amendments to the state constitution, abortion rights, and elections in Montana.
Sixty-three percent of respondents oppose amending Montana’s constitution, and when asked about specific amendments that have been proposed, even greater numbers express disagreement:
75 percent oppose changes to the constitutional right to privacy that would restrict abortion access.
66 percent oppose revising the right to a clean and healthful environment to make it easier for private corporations to develop and profit from the state's natural resources.
92 percent oppose an amendment that would allow the Governor to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, rather than directly elected by the people.
“Some extreme members of the legislature have proposed a record-breaking number of constitutional amendments that would curtail Montanans’ rights and freedoms,” DeMars said. “But Montanans won’t stand for it. These assaults on fundamental rights like privacy and public education, and on our state’s fair, impartial judiciary, are deeply unpopular.”
Resounding majorities of those surveyed oppose the creation of a statewide sales tax and proposals to move toward partisan elections for judges and local offices like school boards.
The survey also asked Montanans about the popular streaming series “Yellowstone,” which has been the subject of heated debate in the state, both credited and blamed with boosting Montana’s tourism industry and fueling the housing crisis. Ninety-two percent of Montanans have heard of “Yellowstone,” but only 31 percent of respondents say they watch the show. Of those Montanans who have watched or know of the show, 56 percent say it does not represent Montana accurately.
The results of Middle Fork’s poll on current issues facing Montana can be found here, and a memo summarizing key takeaways can be found here. The poll was conducted by Searchlight Research from Feb. 7-16 and had 600 participants statewide, representative of the state’s population. Responses were captured by live telephone survey to both landline and cell numbers.
Middle Fork Strategies is a multi-issue advocacy organization based in Montana. Middle Fork’s goals are to hold accountable those in power and work with like-minded advocacy groups on policies and issues that impact Montana.