Poll #1: Disconnect between ND voters, legislators

Voters more independent on abortion, property taxes, ballot measures

Poll #1: Disconnect between ND voters, legislators

North Dakota legislators are out of sync with their voters on the state’s strict abortion law and decidedly independent on topics like property taxes and ballot measures expected to be a focal point during elections a year from now, according to results from the first North Dakota Poll (ND Poll).

With abortion access becoming protected in an increasing number of states, the poll indicates legislators may get stronger pushback during upcoming elections against restrictions placed on abortion earlier this year, according to results of the poll, conducted by the North Dakota News Cooperative (NDNC).

The poll found that 48 percent of North Dakotans are opposed to recent changes in the law, which bans abortions after six weeks, even in cases of rape or incest, and makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after six weeks. The law does allow for exceptions if the life or health of a mother is at risk. Just 38 percent support the law.

The poll shows legislators are “out of step with the people of North Dakota,” said Amy Jacobson, executive director of progressive group Prairie Action.

She said an important takeaway from the polling data is the opposition from women to a restriction that mainly impacts their choices.

“The majority of women want to make sure they are able to secure their freedom to control their own bodies and safely make decisions for their future,” she said.

The poll also showed that 65 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 54 oppose the ban, with 56 percent of all female voters opposing it.

At 61 percent, opposition was strongest among self-identified Independents, voters who make up a third of the electorate.

The biggest support for the strong restrictions came from men over the age of 55, a demographic likely not fathering and raising many children.

The law was passed last winter by 84 percent of state House members and 89 percent of senators, and it was signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum.

State Sen. Janne Myrdal, a strong pro-life Republican and a primary architect/a sponsor of the bill that led to the stronger restrictions, said she and her colleagues have seen what's happening around the country with states moving to protect abortion.

“My frustration is that we’re not good at communicating ‘love them both,’” she said, referring to being both pro-life and supportive of women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.

“We have work to do, and even though Dobbs was overturned, and that’s wonderful, that creates more work,” she said. “The crisis of a woman finding herself in an unwanted pregnancy isn’t over just because the law was overturned.”

Myrdal said she’ll continue working on increasing expenditures for alternatives to abortion, more tax breaks for those providing such services, and other policies to make North Dakota a “welcome life” state.

While 71 percent of Republican voters strongly support the new abortion law, according to poll results, opposition from Democrats and Independents should make the issue “extremely concerning” to Republican candidates and office holders, said Trevor Smith of WPA Intelligence, the firm that conducted the NDNC survey.

“Republicans have a problem on the abortion issue,” said Smith.

Favor for local control on property tax

The North Dakota Poll also surveyed attitudes on whether voters want to eliminate property taxes or retain local control over property tax decisions. The issue may appear on the ballot in November 2024 as an initiated constitutional amendment under the North Dakota Prohibit Property Taxes Initiative.

A plurality of voters, 49 percent, want property tax decisions to remain under local control, the survey found, while 38 percent want them eliminated in favor of requiring the state legislature to replace lost revenue with other state funds.

A sizeable portion, 13 percent, chose not to answer, possibly signaling a need for further education on the potential impacts of a change.

The figures also show Republican voters are not looking at the issue in partisan terms, with an even split of 45 percent in favor of eliminating property taxes to 45 percent who want them to remain under local control.

A majority of Democratic voters support retaining local control, with a 70 percent in favor, while Independents also favored local control by a slightly smaller margin with a 47 percent compared to 39 percent of Independents who want to do away with property taxes.

The deadline for signatures in support of the North Dakota Prohibit Property Taxes Initiative, which needs a total number of signatories equal to 4 percent of the population of the state is July 8, 2024.

Opposition to a “Pass It Twice” ballot measure

In April, the North Dakota legislature placed a constitutional measure on the ballot in next year’s election that will require future measures initiated by citizens to pass twice to become law – first in the primary election and again in the general election.

A large percentage of voters polled – 46 percent – are opposed to the “pass it twice” measure, according to North Dakota Poll data. The biggest takeaway perhaps is that 33 percent strongly oppose the measure, compared to only 14 percent who strongly support the rules change.

Smith of WPA noted that the intensity of opposition is “a real problem for this measure” and should serve as a “warning sign to those who want to pass this into law.”

Republican support for the measure also appears soft, with 46 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed. Independents oppose the measure by a 55 to 30 percent margin, and Democrats opposed it by a 55 to 25 percent margin. A large segment of voters – 18 percent – also declined to respond to the question.

State legislators were much more supportive when voting to put the measure on the ballot earlier this year, with 80 percent of those in the House and 96 percent of those in the Senate in favor of the measure.

North Dakota Poll info

The poll surveyed 517 North Dakotans between Nov. 5-7, 2023, 71 percent of whom plan to vote in the 2024 elections and 59 percent of whom have voted in the past four general elections. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Overall, 45 percent of the respondents consider themselves Republicans, 17 percent Democrats, and 34 percent Independents.

The first North Dakota Poll, which plans to be a quarterly venture, was sponsored by Forum Communications Co., the North Dakota Broadcasters Association and the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

WPA Intelligence, which conducted the polling, is a leading national provider of survey research, predictive analytics, and data management technology to assist in survey design, representative sampling, programming, fielding and data analysis.

The North Dakota News Cooperative is a nonprofit news organization providing reliable and independent reporting on issues and events that impact the lives of North Dakotans. The organization increases the public’s access to quality journalism and advances news literacy across the state. For more information about NDNC or to make a charitable contribution, please visit newscoopnd.org.