Poll: Voters in Greater Minnesota are unhappy with Democratic leaders, but open to gun regulations, abortion access

15 June 2022

A new poll conducted in early June by MinnPost and Change Research found a negative view of the direction of Minnesota and the country. 

But that outlook is even more gloomy among likely voters surveyed in Greater Minnesota, where people by wide margins said the state and nation are on the wrong track, more often reported feeling a financial pinch from inflation in gas prices and groceries and poorly rated the performance of Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden.

The results reflect a political era where voters are typically more liberal in bigger cities and more conservative outside of them — and polarized by other factors like race and education.

At the same time, however, there was plenty of common ground between people surveyed in the Twin Cities, their suburbs and Greater Minnesota on issues like gun regulations and abortion access.

Unhappy with Democratic leadership

The poll, conducted Jun 3-8, surveyed 1,551 likely general election voters. Those in Greater Minnesota — outside of the seven-county Twin Cities metro area — voted for Donald Trump over Biden in 2020 by a 50 to 40 percent margin and they are almost equally divided over whether Trump got more votes in the presidential election than Biden. (Biden got more votes.)

Those voters are broadly unhappy with Democratic leaders headed into a 2022 election that will determine control of statewide offices including governor and attorney general, as well as the Minnesota Legislature and Congress.

About 64 percent of those polled in Greater Minnesota said they believe Minnesota is on the wrong track, not headed in the right direction, compared to just 53 percent of Minneapolis and Saint Paul residents surveyed.

Greater Minnesota residents in the poll had a much worse view of Walz, favoring presumptive Republican nominee Scott Jensen by a 48 to 35 margin over the incumbent governor. Overall, 58 percent of outstate voters said they disapproved of Walz’s performance, even though a slim plurality said they voted for the Democrat in 2018 over Republican Jeff Johnson. People surveyed in Greater Minnesota also favor Republicans Jim Schultz and Doug Wardlow over incumbent Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Still, the numbers aren’t all bad for Walz. Tim Lindberg, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said the governor’s standing in Greater Minnesota hasn’t collapsed. In fact, it’s roughly the same as in an August survey by MinnPost/Change Research, which might be enough to win if Walz turns out voters in the Democratic core areas, Lindberg said.

“He’s probably not going to be outside the Twin Cities winning half of the votes like he did in 2018,” Lindberg said. “But he doesn’t need to.”

Lindberg said a bigger threat to Walz, and to Biden, might be lagging enthusiasm among Democratic base voters in the Twin Cities area. And he said Jensen — still unknown by 44 percent in the poll — could be hitting a high watermark and decline in standing when independents or others learn more about him and his views on things like COVID-19.

General Election: Governor
Note: The modeled margin of error is +/- 4.6 percentage points for the Twin Cities +/- 5.4 percentage points for the metro area and +/- 3.5 percentage points for Greater Minnesota.
Source: MinnPost/Change Research poll

In Greater Minnesota, 81 percent of likely voters surveyed said the country is headed in the wrong direction, though 79 percent of those in the seven-county metro area suburbs, not including Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and 77 percent of Twin Cities residents held the same view.

While Minneapolis and St. Paul voters were split 50-50 over Biden’s record, Greater Minnesota respondents disapproved of the president’s performance by a 28-point margin.

Greater Minnesota residents also disliked Biden’s record on “jobs,” the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine, while a majority of Twin Cities respondents had positive views of Biden on those issues. Likely voters in the metro area suburbs often fell somewhere in between the cities and outstate.

How would you rate the job that Joe Biden is doing on each of the following: Jobs
Note: The modeled margin of error is +/- 4.6 percentage points for the Twin Cities +/- 5.4 percentage points for the metro area and +/- 3.5 percentage points for Greater Minnesota.
Source: MinnPost/Change Research poll

Still, the president’s handling of inflation was broadly unpopular. The poll found that 74 percent of Greater Minnesota residents surveyed and 73 percent of metro suburban residents disapproved of Biden’s record on inflation. In the Twin Cities, 63 percent disapproved of Biden on inflation.

Greater Minnesota economics

Poll respondents in Greater Minnesota reported a more dire economic picture than those elsewhere in the state.

That included 65 percent of those surveyed in outstate Minnesota saying gas prices have been difficult, and another 32 percent reporting gas costs as an inconvenience. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, only 48 percent said gas prices were difficult, though 61 percent held the same position in the metro-area suburbs.

About 56 percent of those surveyed in Greater Minnesota said the price of groceries has been difficult, compared to 50 percent in the suburbs and 44 percent in the Twin Cities. More people in Greater Minnesota — a whopping 79 percent — also said their income was falling behind the cost of living, up from 66 percent in an August 2021 MinnPost/Change Research poll.

In the new June poll, a similar 77 percent in the metro suburbs and a slightly lower 72 percent in the Twin Cities said their income was falling behind the cost of living.

Thinking about the effect on your own household , please indicate whether higher prices in each of the following areas have been difficult, an inconvenience, or had no effect: Gas prices
Note: The modeled margin of error is +/- 4.6 percentage points for the Twin Cities +/- 5.4 percentage points for the metro area and +/- 3.5 percentage points for Greater Minnesota.
Source: MinnPost/Change Research poll

The price of child care is pinching likely voters in the metro-area suburbs worse than in Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities, however, and the costs of housing are similarly difficult across the state. People surveyed said child care and housing prices are less of a pain than groceries or gas, however.

Lindberg said gas prices do tend to affect people in rural areas more than in cities because many drive long distances to work or to get groceries and goods. They also have fewer grocery options which can make avoiding price hikes tougher and fewer high-paying jobs. Some of the higher concern over gas prices might also be due to “partisan concern” driven by Republicans in rural areas seeking to blame Democrats in charge while DFL voters might be less likely to do so.

“But I think it really is a reflection of the reality that it’s something that impacts you more,” Lindberg said. “In particular because the salaries are much lower in rural Minnesota in general we’ve seen gas prices affect people in the cities much less.”

Common ground on guns and abortion

The biggest share of Greater Minnesota respondents were Trump 2020 voters who favor Republicans. But they didn’t split with Democrats on every policy issue. A majority of those surveyed in outstate Minnesota did align with Democrats on many proposals for new gun regulations and abortion access issues.

For instance, 64 percent of likely voters polled across the state favored red flag laws, which allow police to take guns from people who are deemed by courts to be a threat to themselves or others. That included a smaller but still substantial majority of 57 percent of those polled in Greater Minnesota.

Expanding background checks to include private and gun show sales also had support from 70 percent of people surveyed in Greater Minnesota. And 63 percent in outstate Minnesota said they favor requiring people to be 21 or older to buy any guns.

People surveyed in Greater Minnesota were statistically split, however, on whether there should be a federal database to track all gun sales, a ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and a ban on assault-style weapons. All three ideas are broadly favored in the Twin Cities and have majority support in the metro-area suburbs.

On Sunday, a group of Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators announced a tentative deal to pass gun regulations and approve new spending on mental health and school safety initiatives. The gun policy includes money to entice states to have red flag laws, more extensive background checks for people under 21 and block gun sales to more domestic abusers from having guns.

Support/opposition for requiring gun purchasers to be at least 21 years old
Note: The modeled margin of error is +/- 4.6 percentage points for the Twin Cities +/- 5.4 percentage points for the metro area and +/- 3.5 percentage points for Greater Minnesota.
Source: MinnPost/Change Research poll

A blanket ban on all abortions was extremely unpopular in the Twin Cities metro area, and only 34 percent in Greater Minnesota said they would favor outlawing all abortions.

More than three-quarters of respondents in outstate Minnesota said abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, and 83 percent said it should be legal to save the life of a mother. And 59 percent said abortions should be legal in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

Only 28 percent said abortion should be legal in the second trimester of a pregnancy, however, compared to 37 percent in the metro suburbs and 45 percent in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Just 42 percent in Greater Minnesota said abortion should be legal in all instances in which a woman chooses and her doctor is able to perform it safely, while 40 percent said that should be illegal and 19 percent said they were unsure.

Lindberg said the differences in views on guns and abortion are more likely a reflection of differences in political ideology or partisanship rather than because of some aspect of rural versus urban life. 

Lindberg said people in rural areas do “generally, and in Minnesota this is certainly true, cling more to their guns” because it’s part of the culture and might be more likely to grow up around guns or use them in activities like hunting. But he said people in rural areas may not be as fired up about protecting their view of 2nd Amendment rights as conservatives in urban areas experiencing increases in crime where gun ownership is more politically contested.

Broadly, Lindberg said partisanship, age, race, gender and other factors show a greater difference between voters than the urban-rural divide on many questions in the poll, including over guns and abortion.

“If you’re a rural woman you’re still more likely than not to think abortion should be legal in most circumstances,” Lindberg said. “And if you are an urban white male you are still most likely to think it’s not. It’s not as clear cut in terms of those visions as I think people would expect.”

Methodology

Change Research’s online polling methodology uses targeted social media ads and text messages to recruit respondents. The organization has a B- pollster rating from FiveThirtyEight.

The company uses a “modeled” margin of error, which it says accounts for the effects of weighting the poll (or making adjustments to better reflect the state’s demographics). The results were weighted on age, gender, ethnicity, 2020 vote and region. The margin of error for the statewide sample was +/- 2.6 percentage points. The margin of error for the Twin Cities is +/- 4.6 percentage points. For the metro-area suburbs, it’s +/- 5.4 percentage points. For Greater Minnesota, it is +/- 3.5 percentage points. 

The margin of error for Democrats and leaners is +/- 3.7 percentage points. For Republicans and leaners, it is +/- 3.9 percentage points. For pure independents, it is +/- 6.6 percentage points.

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