New poll shows Montana support for relief, infrastructure, senior care

By: - May 26, 2021 3:41 pm

Photo illustration by Pxhere (Creative Commons).

New polling data by a statewide group dedicated to senior issues shows popular support for much of the relief effort championed by Congress and President Joseph Biden.

Big Sky 55+ sponsored the poll conducted by Data for Progress, which surveyed 723 likely voters, with more conservatives than liberals. Big Sky 55+ is a nonpartisan nonprofit that is organizing Montana’s senior population through research and policy.

Tully Olson, the executive director, said his organization wanted to understand how the different recovery and relief packages the federal government put together in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic squared with Montana voters. While some of the results are predictable, with liberals or Democrats generally supporting more of the plans, it shows the majority of Montanans are pleased with the action.

“This shows that Montanans overwhelmingly are in favor of having more options for seniors to age at home,” Olson said.

Key to Olson was the support for long-term care, which ranked at No. 3 on a list of investments made through the American Jobs Plan. Seventy-four percent of the voters said they supported it, ranking it right behind support for physical infrastructure and lead pipe removal, at 81 and 79 percent respectively.

Olson said that with nearly three-in-four Montanans supporting long-term care, it means that there needs to be more investment in the workforce of caregivers and medical providers so that seniors can stay at home for long-term care.

“That means we have to prioritize by paying long-term care workers better,” Olson said, noting that caregivers and other nursing positions tend to be chronically understaffed in Montana. “We need more people in our industry, and this demonstrates that Montana recognizes the value of our legacy residents.”

He said with recent changes in the law that allow seniors to age at home with both Medicare and Medicaid, Montana politicians should see this an opportunity to create jobs in rural Montana as well as keep folks in their homes.

“This shows that all of the legislation has had a plurality of support,” Olson said.

The survey also showed support for the American Rescue Plan, often referred to as “ARPA,” with 52 percent of the overall voters supporting it. The data shows a deep division with nearly 97 percent of Democrats supporting it versus 30 percent of Republicans, with independents and third-party voters at 47 percent.  Support for the American Jobs Plan shows an almost identical split with overall support at 54 percent, while 98 percent of Democrats support it. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans support the American Jobs Plan, while third-party or independent voters remained uncertain at 47 percent.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.