PROMO 64J1 Map - North Dakota State Map - iStock - dk_photos

Poll: Big disconnect between North Dakotans and 'people's fund'

© iStock - dk_photos
Mike Moen

Click play to listen to this article.

Audio file

(Prairie News Service) In a new poll, North Dakota voters say they'd like to see big changes to the state's Legacy Fund, which operates as a savings account funded by oil tax revenue.

In 2010, voters approved creating what's sometimes called the "people's fund," with 30 percent of tax revenue from oil production in the state flowing into the fund each month for long-term investments and general operations.

The North Dakota News Cooperative commissioned the poll, and 68 percent of respondents said they want the money used for economic development within North Dakota, rather than the current focus on out-of-state investments.

Trevor Smith, chief research officer for the analytics firm WPA Intelligence, led the project and said the results are telling.

"There's not a lot of familiarity with what the Legacy Fund is," Smith pointed out. "Three percent of eligible voters are 'very familiar;' 55 percent are 'very unfamiliar.' And then voters really want it to be transparent."

He added 84 percent of respondents want fund managers to ditch their current rule of having to file an information request and simply post the investments online. The poll, which connected with 500 eligible voters in North Dakota, was conducted earlier this month.

Smith noted there are no partisan splits in calling for more accountability and transparency with how the fund operates. 

"Voters, regardless of who they are or what party they identify with, basically agreed very similarly here," Smith reported.

Smith added given how the public still views the Legacy Fund as a mystery, it would be reasonable for this to be brought up as a campaign issue. State records show the fund is currently valued at just below $10 billion.