An army of Montanans 

When it comes to state statistics, Montana typically hangs toward the back of the pack. We’re ranked 38th in per capita income, 44th for total population, and 47th for population density.

But a study released Sept. 7 suggests that some of Montana’s lower rankings probably helped it achieve a pair of first-place finishes.

Data compiled by the nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy group National Priorities Project shows that Montana was number one in the nation for active-duty military recruitment and active Army status per 1,000 people in 2005, beating out Oklahoma and Texas. Montana boasts 5.7 recruits for every 1,000. That number is up 23 percent from 2004. The data also shows that poorer rural areas are the most fertile grounds for military recruitment, which, according to National Priorities Project Research Director Anita Dancs, is at least part of the reason recruiters do so well in Montana.

“In a very rural area, job opportunities are limited,” Dancs says. “Youths that are looking for more economic opportunities are more likely to be recruited.”

Why Montana’s recruitment jumped 23 percent in just one year, though, Dancs wasn’t quite sure, and neither was Army Captain Sean Wilson, who heads the Army’s recruiting efforts in Montana.

Lacking a better explanation, Wilson pinned the Army’s successful recruiting efforts on the “patriotism” of Montanans.

Montana’s statistics on income, population and recruiting may help clarify another statistic: the virtual dead heat that pollsters say Sen. Conrad Burns and Montana Senate President Jon Tester are in for Montana’s U.S. Senate seat.

A story in the Sept. 18 Washington Post speculates that Jack Abramoff’s impact on the elections may not be as strong as expected, noting that pollsters and pundits agree Burns’ relationship with Abramoff is “merely a political liability,” and not a “guaranteed career-ender.”

And while the article points out that Tester, with his broad shoulders, flattop and pickup, has the rural appeal down pat, it also notes that Burns has toed the Bush administration line on the war in Iraq, “betting that most Montanans see Iraq as he does.”

Actually, a May Lee Newspapers poll found that 51 percent of Montanans disagree with the Bush administration’s view of the war in Iraq, with only 39 percent agreeing. Only November will tell how much of the story those stats show.

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