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Poll: North Dakotans oppose measure that would restructure higher ed governance

A recent poll shows North Dakotans are against a November ballot measure that would restructure higher education governance. The poll, commissioned by Forum Communications Co. and conducted by the University of North Dakota's College of Business ...




A recent poll shows North Dakotans are against a November ballot measure that would restructure higher education governance.

The poll, commissioned by Forum Communications Co. and conducted by the University of North Dakota’s College of Business and Public Administration, found 47 percent of respondents planned to vote against Measure 3. Nearly one-third – 32 percent – are undecided while 21 percent are in support of it. The poll tallied responses from 485 people across the state.

Measure 3, a proposed constitutional amendment, would replace the existing eight-member State Board of Higher Education with a paid three-member, full-time commission appointed by several state officials and a representative of an educational interest group.


From Sept. 26 to Oct. 3, the poll asked a random sampling of adults aged 18 or older via landline or cell phone whether they were for, against, or undecided on the measure. The poll has a 5 percent margin of error.

Associate Professor Robert “Bo” Wood assisted in compiling and analyzing the poll results and said in his opinion, the measure won’t pass because of voter attitudes of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

“I would interpret it as people are sort of waiting for the case to be made for why this needs to be done,” he said.

By the numbers

The poll results are weighted to adjust for household size, with an adjustment for the ratio of landlines and cell phones per household, and then again for population distribution, which was taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 2014 Current Population Survey.

Of those polled, about 38 percent were Republican, 26 percent were independent, 19 percent were Democrats, 13 percent were undecided and 4 percent were Libertarian.

Even though the measure was carried to the ballot by a Republican, Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, about 40 percent of the Republicans polled said they would vote against the measure.

But that percentage has a smaller sample size and therefore a higher margin of error, which needs to be “taken with a grain of salt,” Wood said.


The accreditation conundrum

Wood said it’s important to take into account the poll was taken during the time when the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges came out against the measure. A group of about a dozen legislators, civic leaders and citizens formed a group to oppose the measure at that time as well.

“The people are waiting to prove…we need to do this,” Wood said. “A lot of the default setting is, ‘no.’”

He also said a perceived threat to accreditation undoubtedly played a part in the results.

In early September, the Higher Learning Commission issued a report stating the 11 institutions the system oversees could be at risk of losing accreditation if the measure passes.

The report blamed this partly on a short timeline to pass implementing legislation. It also stated the lack of detail in the measure “poses significant risks to the functioning of North Dakota’s system of higher education as a whole and to future reaffirmation of accreditation for its individual institutions.”

Wood said unless more information is released about this potential threat, he thought most of the undecided voters would vote against the measure.



Links to full poll data:

Measure 3

Poll methodology



Publication dates for poll results

Oct. 9:  Measure 1, rights to life.

Today: Measure 3, abolish Board of Higher Education.


Oct. 11: UND/NDSU rivalry.

Oct. 12: Measure 5, conservation funding.

Oct. 13: U.S. House for North Dakota.

Oct. 14: North Dakota races for agriculture and tax commissioners.

Oct. 15: Measure 6, each parent is a fit parent.

Oct. 16: Measure 7, pharmacy requirement.

Oct. 17: Measure 8, school classes start after Labor Day.

Oct. 18: Marijuana.


Oct. 19: Oil.

Oct. 20: Same-sex marriage.


Poll methodology

Polls results are based on telephone interviews of 505 randomly selected adults living in North Dakota and likely to vote Nov. 4. Polling was conducted from from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3. In order to provide a probability-based representative sample, both landline and cellular phone numbers were included. The sample yields a 95 percent confidence level of a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error.

Source: UND College of Business and Public Administration


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