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Gallup poll finds ND residents highly satisified

BISMARCK -- North Dakotans are more satisfied than other Americans when it comes to their state's economy, schools and overall standard of living, but the love affair fades on the subject of whether the state is a good place for racial minorities...

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BISMARCK - North Dakotans are more satisfied than other Americans when it comes to their state’s economy, schools and overall standard of living, but the love affair fades on the subject of whether the state is a good place for racial minorities, immigrants and gay and lesbian people, according to a new poll.

The Gallup poll released Monday was conducted from June to December of last year. It involved phone interviews with about 600 randomly sampled adults in every state.

North Dakota respondents had the nation’s highest level of satisfaction on 17 of the 49 questions, including standard of living, ability to find a quality job, schools and air quality. Their level of satisfaction was above average on 26 questions and below average on six questions.

A Gallup article titled "North Dakota: Legendary Among States" accompanied the poll’s release on www.gallup.com , describing the state as "a complex, thriving state that is adapting rapidly to the economic and social factors that are transforming this population of roughly 725,000 people."

"It’s great," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said of the poll results, which come in the midst of a national campaign, "Find the Good Life in North Dakota," aimed at attracting workers to fill the state’s job openings that numbered more than 23,000 in July.

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North Dakotans led the nation in agreeing that their state is a good place for people starting a new business and in rating its economic conditions as excellent or good.

Dalrymple joked that he was "a little bit sad" the article didn’t mention that the state’s average per-capita personal income climbed to $57,084 last year, which was second highest among states behind Connecticut’s $60,847.

Eighty-eight percent of North Dakota respondents said they were satisfied with their standard of living, compared to the 50-state average of 77 percent.

In one of few dark spots, only 61 percent of poll respondents were satisfied with the availability of affordable housing, which has been under pressure from the influx of new workers. The national average was 69 percent.

Dalrymple highlighted North Dakota’s nation-leading results when it came to satisfaction with the education system and having a great deal or fair amount of trust in state government to handle state problems.

"As a governor, I gotta love it," he said.

North Dakotans also led the nation in agreeing that they were "treated with respect all day yesterday." But their responses were below average when it came to questions about the state being a good place for racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and gay and lesbian people. Sixty-two percent said North Dakota was a good place for gay or lesbian people, compared with a national average of 70 percent.

Dalrymple attributed those results in large part to the state’s historically homogenous population. Gallup reported last year that the percentage of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was 1.7 percent in North Dakota, the lowest in the nation.

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"I really think that people in North Dakota are basically very accepting and very tolerant people, and as soon as they have the opportunity to get some exposure and some experience with new people, that they open their minds very quickly," he said. "I don’t see that as a lasting problem for North Dakota. It’s really more of a statement of kind of our lack of experience with certain groups."

The Republican governor and other top state leaders are defending North Dakota’s gay marriage ban - approved by 73 percent of state voters in 2004 - against a federal lawsuit brought by seven same-sex couples who claim the ban denies their constitutional rights.

Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, the first openly gay candidate elected to the state Legislature, said it’s good the majority of North Dakotans think the state a great place to live, and he agrees with that sentiment.

"But when it comes to being part of underrepresented groups, I think the challenge there is you have a state right now that has a policy in place and is defending the policy that is open discrimination," he said, adding the GOP-controlled Legislature also has rejected legislation that would prohibit housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The poll’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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