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What Minnesotans are thinking: Surveying the surveys as Minnesota’s primary election approaches

How Minnesotans are feeling, on everyting from Russian interferance to the Gov. Mark Dayton.

A slim majority (54 percent) of Minnesotans support using taxpayer dollars to build two planned Twin Cities light rail lines.
Courtesy of Metro Transit

Minnesota’s primary election is Aug. 14. Based on official election data collected over the last five primaries, we can expect 7-12 percent of eligible voters to turn out  as the political parties officially select their candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, state offices and other contested races for the Minnesota House and U.S. House of Representatives.

Chuck Slocum

What really matters, of course, is how effective the parties are in getting their base to the polls in support of their endorsed candidates. But in reviewing a number of opinion surveys from the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, here’s what we know about how people in the state feel: 

On Dayton, the tax bill and Russia:

  • Gov. Mark Dayton’s popularity hit an all time high a year ago, though that was before squabbles with the Republicans who control the state House and Senate — which resulted in no substantive actions on spending, tax policy and other matters during the 2018 legislative session. 

  • Most Minnesota voters believe that the new federal tax bill favored the wealthy but that view was less strongly felt by middle and lower income workers. A majority want fair, broadly based tax policy and not one with targeted tax relief to selected groups.

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  • The state is evenly split on changes to Obamacare but over half say that the plan, to date, has done more good than harm.

  • More than half of the state’s voters feel that Russia meddled in our 2016 elections with many others saying they remain undecided and are awaiting further information.

On President Donald Trump

  • Views regarding President’s Trump’s job performance have been similar to those of his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Minnesotans of various political persuasions are concerned, however, with Trump’s volatile temperament, some terming it “unfit” for a U.S. President.  

  • Over three months ago, Minnesotans did support the president’s proposed bombing of Syria, but opposed (by a two-to-one margin) building a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico if the U.S. had to pay for it.

  • The Trump proposed ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries to the U.S. was backed by only one-in-three who were surveyed. Overall, most Minnesotans think immigrants are good for the country.

On the #MeToo movement and the growing role of women in politics

  • Most of those surveyed predict that 2018 will be a year of significant success for women running for public office across the nation — in part because of greater number of female candidates who surfaced after a series of scandals involving women and prominent men.

  • In Minnesota, a majority of women say that they have been sexually harassed, while one in four undergraduate women at the University of Minnesota have been victims of sexual assault or misconduct by physical force. Nearly two in three women reported experiencing harassment in the workplace.

On other issues

  • Eight in ten Minnesotans want texting and driving to be punished on par with drunken driving.

  • Minnesotans tend to offer mixed messages on health care but do want pre-existing conditions to be covered by insurance.

  • In April of this year, over half of Minnesotans said they supported some form of gun control legislation.

  • A slim majority (54 percent) of Minnesotans support using taxpayer dollars to build two planned Twin Cities light rail lines; the issue registered strong pushback in Greater Minnesota, however.


Of course, while published opinion survey research can indicate how a sample of all of us feel, it is not valid in predicting how primary voters may think — and what that may say about the results. For those eligible voters who believe in active participation in shaping Minnesota’s future, the Aug. 14 primary and the Nov. 6 General Election will require your vote. The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, your local city hall, or your political party can offer relevant information on how and where you can voting already underway.

Chuck Slocum is president of the Williston Group, a management consulting firm. Contact him at


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