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Minnesota Public Radio abandons political polling

After a 2010 debacle, the statewide radio network focuses on other things.

For the first time since at least 1996, MPR is out of the political polling business.

“No polls from us,” says Chris Worthington, MPR’s managing director of regional news. “Other obligations.”

Worthington didn’t further spell out his rationale, but MPR’s exit comes two years after their sponsorship of a University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Aaffairs poll erupted in controversy. The U’s survey, conducted 7-10 days before the election, had Mark Dayton up 12 percentage points — rising from a month earlier, while other polls showed a tightening. Republicans screamed “bias”; Dayton wound up winning the contest by 0.4 points.

MPR later published the U’s internal and Gallup’s external reviews — accountable, yet embarrassing, for the “no rant, no slant” network. At the time, Worthington said, “We look forward to more conversation about the recommendations.”

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Cost may also be a factor; MPR’s original polling partners, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KARE11, stopped sponsoring polls years ago. These days, only the Star Tribune and KSTP-TV sponsor full polls, though non-affiliated pollsters such as Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports also play in Minnesota.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of numbers these days; especially for taxpayer-supported MPR, the reputational risk isn’t worth it. MPR News has improved its digging and depth on Worthington’s watch, and they’re better off unearthing stories than paying an outside contractor to become the story.