The folks behind the “no” vote campaign against Measure 5 the constitutional amendment that would divert hundreds of millions in oil tax revenues into a slush fund for conservation activists – told me that they started as serious underdogs. They said their internal polling at the beginning of the year showed strong majority approval – near 70 percent – for the measure.
Since then approval for the poll has plummeted. As of about a month ago, they told me, approval for the measure was just over 50 percent in their internal polling.
They say they liked that trend.
Now, according to the Fargo Forum’s polling, approval is under 50 percent. But then, so is opposition, and the “yes” side has a seven percentage point lead.
Which is why it would be nice if North Dakota has more public polling. Any one poll can be an outlier. Multiple polls – especially a series of polls using uniform methodology – can give us a more clear picture.
Is Measure 5 on cruise control for victory in November? Or is this just the latest snap shot of what’s been a months-long stumble from approval?
We don’t really know.
Support for the proposed conservation fund slightly outweighs opposition to it, but the spread is small enough to label the fiercely contested race a statistical dead heat, according to the poll of likely North Dakota voters.
The poll, commissioned by Forum Communications Co. and conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration, found 44 percent of respondents planned to vote for the measure, 37 percent planned to vote against it and 18 percent were undecided.
“This is what we would say statistically is too close to call,” said Robert Wood, an associate professor of political science at UND who worked on the poll.
According to Mike Nowtazki’s report, opposition to the fund is slightly higher in western North Dakota than eastern North Dakota, but not buy much. Attitudes seem fairly uniform across the state.
Interestingly, there were no links to a polling memo or methodology report included in this report as it was in the Forum’s previous polling articles. It would be nice to know more about the demographic breakdowns.
This is going to hinge on what those last-minute voters – the people who are just now tuning into these debates which have been going on for month – think of the amendment. And that’s where the “yes” side may have an advantage.
They’ve got some pretty favorable ballot language. Here’s the first sentence voters will read on the ballot:
This initiated measure would add a new section to Article X of the North Dakota Constitution creating the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Trust (the “Trust”) and the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Fund (the ‘Fund’) to be financed by five percent of the revenues from the State’s share of oil extraction taxes.
Voters not knowing anything else about this amendment are probably going to see “clean water” and think that’s something worth voting for.
All the more reason why North Dakotans should think about passing Measure 4, so that monstrosities like Measure 5 can’t be put on the ballot any longer.