Bush’s Popularity in Montana Falls, State Officials Fare Better

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN (AP) – A new poll shows President Bush’s approval ratings in Montana have dropped significantly, along with support for the decision to go to war in Iraq.

The survey released Thursday by Montana State University-Billings found 32 percent of Montana residents approve of Bush’s overall job performance, while 57 percent disapproved and 11 percent were undecided. The telephone survey of 412 adults was conducted Nov. 8-11 and had a margin of error of five percentage points.

Bush’s approval ratings were down from 45 percent last year in the same Montana State University-Billings poll, and down from a 2001 high of 87 percent.

Support for the decision to go to war is also eroding.

The poll found that only 35 percent of Montanans surveyed now support the decision to go to war in Iraq. About 58 percent oppose that decision, up from 48 percent in both 2005 and 2006 in the same poll.

And 54 percent of respondents said they oppose Bush’s decision to veto an expansion of a children’s health insurance program.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, along with U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, all fared well in the new survey.

The respondents were asked if they approve or disapprove of the “overall performance” of the elected officials.

Baucus, a Democrat, received an approval rating of 64 percent, with the rest of those surveyed about equally split between disapproval and undecided. His approval rating in the same poll has swayed from 50 percent in 1994 to 68 percent in 1998.

Schweitzer, also a Democrat, received favorable approval from 63 percent of those surveyed, while 18 percent disapproved and 19 percent were undecided. The governor, elected in 2004, had a 69 percent approval rating in 2005.

Rehberg, a Republican, was supported by 59 percent of respondents, with 17 percent disapproving and 24 percent undecided. His positive job approval rating is up from a low of about 49 percent in 2001 and 2005.

Tester, a Democrat elected last year, received the approval of 57 percent of those surveyed, while 16 percent disapproved. A larger portion, 27 percent, were undecided. It was the first time Montana State University-Billings had asked the question about Tester.

Other poll results:

— 21 percent approve of Congress’ job performance.

— 45 percent support the decision to go to war in Afghanistan.

— 63 percent say the country is moving in the wrong direction; 19 percent say it’s moving in the right direction.

— About 46 percent say the current terrorist threat is about the same as at the beginning of the war in Iraq, while 27 percent said it is higher.

— 58 percent believe Iran is a threat to the U.S., and 47 percent say the United States should use military force to destroy any nuclear capability that Iran develops.

The poll was led by political scientist Craig Wilson along with professors Scott Rickard and Dan Lennon.