Poll: North Dakotans Split on Supporting Roosevelt Library, Project Is Least Popular in Western North Dakota


Dean Mitchell of DFM Research is a friend of mine who also works as a political pollster. I’ve commissioned polling from him, and his worked for various groups and political candidates on both sides ideological spectrum. His work is well-regarded in North Dakota.

Recently he shared with me some excerpts from polling he did in North Dakota back in May. He couldn’t share everything with me, but what he did share was interesting and I thought I’d write a few posts about it this week.

First, some very interesting numbers on the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to be built in Medora.

That’s been a controversial project. First because its location was moved, from the campus of Dickinson State University in Dickinson out to the tourist town of Medora. Second, because many in the state believe the $50 million appropriated for the project is an egregious use of taxpayer dollars. A referendum campaign was even launched to put the appropriation on the ballot for a possible voter veto, though it failed to get the requisite number of signatures earlier this month.

What Mitchell’s polling found was a state pretty evenly split on support for the library (the polling sample was 400 North Dakotans, not likely voters, and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent):

Perhaps more interesting than the top-line numbers are the demographic breakdowns, which you can read below.

Women opposed the library slightly more than men. College-educated North Dakotans supported it more than North Dakotans without a degree. But it was the east-west divide in support which surprised me. People living in the west were quite a bit less supportive of the library than those living in eastern North Dakota.

That’s probably because western North Dakota is quite a bit more conservative than eastern North Dakota. It could also be because of some of the aforementioned controversy over the library’s location. When Governor Doug Burgum spearheaded an effort to move the library to Medora he ticked off quite a few people in Dickinson, one of western North Dakota’s largest communities, who wanted it located there.

What’s odd is that one would expect the library to be most beneficial to western North Dakota, at least in terms of the tourism and commerce it would lure there. That’s been one of the chief arguments for library made by proponents, and you’d have expected it to result in more support in western North Dakota than in the eastern part of the state.

Anyway, here are the demographics. For what it’s worth, I support the library project, and I think one of the obstacles to more widespread public support for it is the term “library.” These presidential libraries, as anyone who has actually been to one knows, are far more than books-on-shelves. They are museums. Real attractions. The Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, has full-sized Air Force One on display. It’s amazing.

The Roosevelt Library, once opened, will win over a lot of critics.