A new poll done by faculty and students at MSU-Billings has politicos across Montana pointing to winners and losers after the fallout of the federal shutdown debates. Although the poll results do show Governor Steve Bullock in a favorable light, some of the other poll results may not be as clear as some think. For example, a quick glance at approval ratings shows Congressman Steve Daines at 39 percent approval, about five points lower than Senator Max Baucus, the second lowest on the list.

"There is this assertion that this means that Steve Daines is the least popular politician in the state," said MSU Political Science Professor David Parker. "The problem with that, is that there is this pesky thing called the margin of error. The margin of error is plus or minus five points. So, Steve Daines could have an approval rating that is tied with Baucus and Tester, or it could be as low as 34 percent."

None of Montana's congressional delegation managed to garner a statistically significant 50 percent approval rating. Though the poll may not tell us much about who the most popular Montana representative in Washington may be, it does drop hints that can be useful for gauging upcoming elections.

"Here's what's more important: the undecided number," Parker said. "Baucus and Tester both have undecided ratings on job approval at about 15 to 16 percent, which says that opinion on Baucus and Tester is fairly fixed. Steve Daines has an undecided rating of 37 percent, and Bullock at 33 percent, which, to me, says clearly, and I can say this with statistical confidence, that people have not formed a very strong opinion about Steve Daines and Bullock relative to Baucus and Tester. So I would say Steve Daines and Baucus are still relatively unknown, and there's room for growth."

The full MSU poll covers many other issues as well, including attitudes toward the national debt, the Tea Party, and the Affordable Care Act.

Steve Daines39%24%37%100%
Jon Tester44.7%39.4%15.9%100%
Max Baucus44.1%39%16.9%100%
Steve Bullock53%14%33%100%

David Parker:

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