Observations on the latest Obama-McCain poll numbers for Minnesota

A couple of hours ago I put up a quick post about a new poll of Minnesota and three other “battleground states” done by Quinnipiac University for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. I promised to get back with a longer post, and that post is this post:

In the poll, taken June 17-24, Barack Obama leads John McCain in Minnesota by a whopping 54-37 percent margin while Norm Coleman leads Al Franken in the Senate race by 51-41 percent. The margin for error in the Minnesota sample is 2.5 percentage points, meaning both of those leads are well into statistical significance.

Here are some observations on the Minnesota portion of the poll:

Self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Minnesota by 35-26 percent. Seven percent of Dems said they would vote for McCain compared with 12 percent of Repubs who favor Obama. But the bigger contributor to Obama’s lead is his big margin among independents, who, according to stereotypes, are supposed to be a McCain strength. More on that below.

Obama led among all age groups, all education levels, all geographic areas and both genders (although his 49-42 percent lead among men paled next to his 54-36 among women).

One of the few groups that favored McCain was self-identified born-again evangelicals, and there by 55-38 percent.

Obama led among those who said the most important issue facing the country was the economy, and those who said the Iraq war. McCain led among those who said terrorism. But that last group was just 5 percent of the total sample, compared with 51 percent who said economy and 21 percent who said Iraq. Eleven percent said health care and 5 percent said immigration.

It’s easy to imagine that polls like these (Quinnipiac also found Obama up by 13 points in Wisconsin) are going to weaken at least that portion of the case for Pawlenty-as-running-mate that says he can help McCain in the Upper Midwestern swing states. I’ve always thought the idea that Iowans and Wisconsinites are more likely to vote for a ticket because it contains a neighboring-state governor is silly. (Ask yourself what the presence on the ticket of an Iowan would do to your usual voting tendencies.) But aside from that, people who want to characterize Minnesota or Wisconsin as swing states this year are going to have to come up with some evidence.

Quinnipiac did ask Minnesotans whether Pawlenty on the ticket would make them more or less likely to vote for McCain. Eighteen percent said more likely. But before you get too excited about that one, 23 percent said less likely.

I’ve been developing a pretty bad attitude about these would-factor-x-make-you-more-likely-to-vote-for-candidadate-Y? questions. Take this Pawlenty veep question, for example: 37 percent of Minnesota Republicans said Pawlenty-for-veep would make them more likely to vote for the ticket, but 84 percent of MN Repubs already say they plan to vote for the ticket. Would the Pawlenty bump mean 121 percent of Repubs would vote for McCain? How many of those Republicans will vote for the GOP ticket no matter who is on it? What does it mean for them to be more likely to vote for it? Hmmm?

The comparison of Obama’s strengths and Franken’s weakness in this poll should be alarming for Team Franken. For example, only 4 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Franken while 17 percent of Dems said they would vote for Coleman. Franken and Coleman were tied, 45-45 percent, among women, which is the gender that typically favors the Democrats (and favored Obama by 54-36!).

But perhaps the key factor among them all is that independents, who make up 31 percent of all Minnesotans, favor Obama over McCain by a crushing 55-38 percent, while they favor Coleman by an even bigger 55-35 percent margin. If Franken doesn’t figure out how to appeal to independents, he will be toast.

Looking at the other three state polls…

… Obama led McCain in all four, but in Michigan by just 48-42 and in Colorado by just 49-44.  (The samples in the four polls were quite large and the margin for error, which varied from state to state, was well under 3 percentage points in each.)

The breakdowns in Wisconsin tracked those in Minnesota pretty closely. The main thing that caused Obama’s margin to be smaller in Michigan is that McCain did better there among independents (although Obama still carried Michigan independents by 46-38). In Colorado (a state that the Republican ticket carried in 2000 and 2004), the main thing holding down Obama’s lead is that roughly equal portions of the likely electorate are self-identified Republicans as Democrats.

Poll responses on Iraq were puzzling. In Minnesota, those who said Iraq was their top issue favored Obama by 65-25 percent. By 61-31 percent, Minnesotans said that going into Iraq was the “wrong thing.” That’s what Obama said too.

But then they were asked whether they would prefer that the next president immediately begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops with a goal of getting them out within 18 months (an approximation of Obama’s position) or prefer that the next president keep the troops in Iraq until the situation is more stable and then begin to withdraw them without fixed timetable (McCain’s general position). By a solid 54-38 percent, Minnesotans chose the second option. Hmmmm? What think?

The page one story from the Post, which discusses all four state polls, is here.

The detailed breakdown of the Minnesota numbers is here.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Ed Nelson on 06/27/2008 - 10:08 am.

    I find the lead that Coleman has with Independents fascinating. One has to ask themselves what Coleman has done to help independents or Minnesotans in general for that matter.

    The Coleman camp continues to distract us by looking at Al Franken’s mutual funds which have nothing to do with Minnesotans, have no affect on us as Minnesotans, do not affect our taxes in any way, and make no difference to us in anyway.

    All while our hard earned tax dollars continue to go into the pockets of Oil companies, Big Pharma, and all of Bush’s buddies instead of towards finding a way to help small businesses survive the devasting costs of health care.

    Meanwhile in Minnesota the infrastructure, roads, bridges and even the education system all continuing to decay at ever greater speeds. If Independents and small business owners don’t think this is all going to come back and bite them hard in the future …. then well they probably won’t continue to be successful small business owners for long.

  2. Submitted by John E Iacono on 07/01/2008 - 01:36 pm.

    “By a solid 54-38 percent, Minnesotans chose the second option. Hmmmm? What think?”

    I think, regardless of whether they think going into Iraq was a good idea or not, or whether they think it was a good idea executed badly, Minnesotans do not like the idea a turning tail and going home in the kind of disgrace that was Viet Nam.

    I think they do not accept the view that Iraq is an unmitigated disaster doomed to failure.

    Ithink they do not believe that if only we leave Iraq all will be well in the world, and that AlQaida and those others who wish to harm us will also go home.

    I think they are more comfortable with “fixing it” and THEN going home. That’s more the Minnesota way.

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