Cities all across the nation are becoming more politically divided. While Montana as a whole remains a red state at the polls, has its largest city Billings turned liberal?
Billings, although the biggest and most diverse city in Montana, maintains the state’s overall conservative values and is not considered liberal. However, where the city sits politically has changed over the years as people from around the nation relocate there.
As one can imagine, Billings locals were more than eager to discuss the political beliefs of their town. Below you will find discussion from the locals, past voting results, and the laws shaped by the cities political standing.
Billings: According to the Locals
Before you move to a city it may be important to find out the political standing and type of community you will be joining. The best way to find out what the city will actually be like is to speak directly with the locals.
And that is exactly what we did! To help get you the most accurate information about the Billings Montana community, we spoke with hundreds of locals about their thoughts on the city being more liberal or conservative.
Although most of the locals agreed that Billings was primarily a conservative city, there were some that believed the town was becoming more liberal over the years.
“I would say they have some liberal movements (some city council members) but for the most part, it is still a conservative area. It is such a large city for Montana that there’s a wide variety of beliefs.”Billings Local
Our survey found that around 87% of Billings locals saw the town as primarily conservative and the other 13% believed it was more liberal.
What people classify as liberal may vary from region to region. What a Californian might consider as liberal will be drastically different from the Montanan definition.
One local described the town as more conservative due to the community’s unwillingness to wear masks during the COVID-19 restrictions, lack of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community, and pro-life demonstrations.
Comprised mostly by Montana ranchers and farmers, Billings tends to favor like-minded people. However, when someone shares the Montana ideology of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” the community welcomes them with open arms no matter their political standing.
“I have lived here most of my life. Most people I know are moderately conservative. We value diversity and equality but do not support elevating a particular race, religion, gender, etc over others. Most people believe that if you want something you should work hard to get it.”Billings Local
Because the town welcomes those who choose to work hard, many small-town businesses choose to open up shop here.
Although one would expect these smaller businesses to struggle to compete with the larger brands available in bigger cities, Billings residents rally support for their small-town businesses instead.
“Billings greatly supports local businesses- there are a LOT of locally owned restaurants and coffee shops. Charitable organizations thrive here and have many donors. There is not a lot of support for increased government programs.”Billings Local
Billings is often referred to as a big, small town. Although the population is greater than all other Montana cities, the community acts more like a small town would.
Neighbors look out for each other and hard work is appreciated. According to the locals, these values, along with other aspects, are what makes Billings NOT a liberal city.
However, if you are a liberal and you want to move to this area, you will still find that there are other people who are like-minded.
In order to truly determine if a town is liberal or conservative, other factors should be considered such as voting patterns, gun and abortion laws, environmental policies, and so much more.
Below we will touch on some of these topics and help you decide for yourself whether Billings is a liberal city or not.
Voting Patterns Over the Years
How a county votes is an excellent way to assess the overall political affiliation of the area.
According to the Yellowstone County Elections Office, the 2020 General Election had an 81.48% voter turnout. This was an increase of 6.48% from the 2016 General Election.
Of the 2020 voter turnout, only 36.39% voted for Biden/Harris while 60.22% voted for Trump/Pence and 2.81% for the third party candidate.
The county had relatively similar voting results from the 2016 General Election with 59.6% voting republican and 32.5% voting democrat according to Politico. Percentages did not vary greatly from the 2014 election either.
Voting history shows that the majority of Yellowstone County, of which Billings makes up 66% of the total population, votes conservative instead of liberal.
As for the town becoming more liberal as locals had suggested, data shows that Billings has remained consistently conservative over the past decade. So though it may feel so some that there is a change coming, that might not be the case.
Montana, as a whole, strongly supports the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. The policies and restrictions regarding gun purchasing and ownership reflect this support.
In order to purchase a rifle or “long gun” one needs only be at least 18 years of age. However, in order to buy a handgun or its associated ammo one must be at least 21 years old. There is no need for a permit or license to purchase either type of gun.
Open carry is permitted with a few restrictions in certain areas. Additionally, one can carry a concealed weapon, with some area restrictions, so long as they have completed the necessary class and obtained a permit.
However, on February 18th of 2021 Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a new gun bill into law changing how concealed carry would be enforced statewide.
This bill, HB102 allows those who do not have a concealed carry permit to do so regardless in public areas such as banks and bars. Those with concealed carry permits can now continue to do so in previously restricted areas.
“Proponents say House Bill 102 is a way to cut back on restrictions that keep responsible gun owners from carrying firearms to protect themselves and others.”Montana Free Press
Many Billings Residents believe that the greatest issue facing the city is crime and violence. With the passing of this bill, it is hoped that more residents are able to protect themselves from becoming victims of violent crime.
This solution is definitely not a “liberal mind-set” which further proves the point of how conservative this area is.
Read more about this bill and its effect on Montana Gun Laws from the Montana Free Press here.
Hunting and sporting are a large part of the Montana way of life. To this day many Montanans choose to hunt each season in order to keep their freezers stocked rather than running to the grocery store.
Because guns are such a large part of the Montana way of life, restrictions on gun ownership are low and all are encouraged to learn how to properly–and safely–operate firearms.
Billings: Pro-Life or Pro-Choice
Several locals claimed that Billings was a very pro-life town.
Beginning in 2007, Billings began hosting its annual “March for Life.” This demonstration includes hundreds of residents singing, prayers, and then marching to the Yellowstone County Courthouse in protest of the Federal Roe v. Wade decision.
Other “March for Life” events were held in locations across the state, such as Helena and Bozeman.
In February of 2021, the Montana state legislature faces four individual bills regarding abortion. One bill expected that women be notified of the risks of abortion-inducing drugs while another required a mother to be offered an ultrasound before pursuing an abortion.
The final two bills provided protections to children born alive during or after an abortion and prohibited abortions after 20 weeks gestation.
These bills were viewed highly by pro-life residents. On February 26th of 2021, each bill passed the Senate. They now await approval of the governor, who already spoke favorably of the bills’ mission.
Whether the people of Billings are pro-life or pro-choice, residents must follow the laws issued by the state legislature, which are primarily pro-life.
Billings is widely known for its multiple oil refineries. Much of the city’s economy revolves around these refineries and the business that rely on their product.
Southeast of Billings Montana, one can find the Billings PCE Groundwater State Superfund Site. Covering 855 acres, this area has been contaminated by dry cleaning and industrial chemicals.
After becoming a superfund site in 1992, the PCE began to undergo the EPA’s long process of contaminate removal.
Learn more about the PCE from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality here.
Because of Billings’ economic reliance on the industrial sector, it is unlikely that the refineries will ever disappear. However, in order to protect the abundance of natural resources Montana is known for, the Billings refineries must follow a series of precautions in order to prevent and clean up pollution.
Learn more about the Billings Refineries from East of Billings here!
With all of this in mind, it is easy to see that Billings does not follow environmental policies that align with liberal thinking.
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