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Minnesotans’ political leanings say a lot about whether they expect an economic downturn

Walmart
REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Hibbing nurse Peggy Mehle: “The malls are all pretty much empty. There are jobs at gas stations and Walmart, which don’t pay well.”

Minnesotans are pessimistic about the future of the economy. But their outlook — like their opinions about many things — is very much tied to their politics.

According to a survey conducted for the University of Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 4 in 10 Minnesotans believe the economy will get much worse or somewhat worse in the next year, while 23 percent believe the economy will get better and 36 percent think it will stay the same.

But the results depend a lot on political affiliation. Republicans – 45 percent of them – believe the economy will get better, compared with just 5 percent of Democrats. Thirteen percent of Republicans believe it will get worse, compared with 67 percent of Democrats.

In the next year, do you think the national economy will get better, get worse, or stay about the same?
Note: Share of respondents shown with margin of error.
Source: University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication survey, conducted by Strategic Research Group

Marlene Rose lives in Lexington, in Anoka County, and believes the economy is very good and will get much better. She credits President Donald Trump for creating more jobs. “I know jobs are available for young kids, for everybody,” she said. “…People can get work and people who are on food stamps can feel better about themselves through working… It’s a wonderful thing.” She is confident in the future because she believes Trump will win re-election.

Survey respondent Pamela Nelson of Bloomington thinks the economy is very good — but expects it to get worse. The curriculum specialist at Capella University said that traditional industries such as farming are hurting. “All the negative actions from our president are catching up,” she said. She also noted that the federal minimum wage has not increased in years, and many new jobs are low-level.

workshop worker
Photo by Eduardo Cabrera on Unsplash
Although confidence in the future economy is gloomy, Minnesotans’ view of the current economy is generally positive, with 59 percent saying it’s somewhat or very good.
National polls have reflected a lack of confidence about economic growth. A June poll by the Associated Press and National Opinion Research Center found that 61 percent of Americans felt the current economy was good. But only a third thought it would get better. Another third thought it would get worse, and just less than a third thought it would stay the same.

Historically, the state of the economy has been important in the run-up to Election Day. But pessimism about the economy isn’t likely to hurt Trump as much in today’s hyper-partisan environment, where people’s views on issues align with their political affiliation, said Hamline political science Professor David Schultz. “It should [affect the election] but it’s not going to,” Schultz said. “How we view the economy is partisanly constructed.”

Still, belief that economic growth will slow is well-founded, said Oriane Casale, interim director of the Labor Market Information Office at Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. “The growth that we’ve been seeing over the past 10 years is beginning to sort of flatten out,” she said.

Although confidence in the future economy is gloomy, Minnesotans’ view of the current economy is generally positive, with 59 percent saying it’s somewhat or very good. Several survey respondents mentioned strong employment as a reason for rating the economy so well. “We’re in a period where we see employment growth for the last 10 plus years straight,” Casale said. “It’s a good market for job seekers.”


Peggy Mehle is a rural resident who has less faith in the future economy. A Hibbing nurse, she has seen recent layoffs at the nearby Minntac mine, and an effect on the community. There are jobs, but many have to work several just to make a living. “The malls are all pretty much empty,” she said. “There are jobs at gas stations and Walmart, which don’t pay well.”

Poll respondents who live in urban areas were more pessimistic than were rural Minnesotans, which likely reflects the same political divide as the overall numbers, with rural Minnesotans tending to be more politically conservative than those who live in urban areas. Respondents living in suburban areas were also more pessimistic. Forty-three percent of suburban respondents said they believed the economy would get somewhat or much worse. Twenty-four percent said it would get somewhat or much better. A third of respondents said it would stay about the same.

Virginia Schaefer of Sandstone has a far different point of view than many of her fellow Republicans. The economy “is going up right now. However, it’s going to change somewhat because of the tariffs and everything,” she said. “I want it to be good, but I don’t want it to be good,” she added. “Because Trump will . . . use it in his campaigning and everything. He already is. I’m a Republican, but I’m against him.”

The poll results are based on a representative sample of 707 completed responses collected Oct. 2 through Oct. 31. The survey was conducted primarily online, with respondents invited to participate with letters sent to their home addresses. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.7 percent. Margins can be larger when breaking down subgroups of the sample. The poll was conducted for the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication by Strategic Research Group.

Kayla Glaraton and Elana Warren are students at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. This story and the surveys cited were funded in part by an endowment in the name of the late Mitchell Charnley, a professor and expert in news reporting and broadcast journalism who died in 1991.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Eric House on 01/07/2020 - 10:46 am.

    It would have been nice if the article also had actual economic statistics in place. what do the facts suggest- not just what do people believe.

    Forecasts always have an element of doubt, but there is a difference between informed and uninformed expectations- which political side is more likely to be wrong?

  2. Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/07/2020 - 10:49 am.

    I guess I would read it as those who’ve been broken, convinced all they’re worth is scraps, being happy when more scraps are tossed their way. On the other side are those who understand that there should be more to life than slaving away at dead end employment, creating wealth for others, who understand that the current economy is broken for all but the privileged few, that employment signs at convenience stores and Wal-Mart do NOT equate to a strong economy, and recognize the need to fix it.

  3. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 01/07/2020 - 12:37 pm.

    The article never says what is a “good” economy, so I will offer the criteria: An economy that is ecologically sustainable, that fairly distributes the wealth it creates, and that provides basic goods (food, shelter, health care, education, beer) to all those who fulfill the social contract. By those criteria, a growth-based economy cannot be a good economy. Only a constricted economy that better determines what is produced and how it is distributed can be a good economy. If someone thinks a “good” economy is determined by whether Wal-Mart is hiring, their opinion isn’t of much interest to me.

    Perhaps as one might expect from a school of journalism, the article also does an excellent job of burying any meaning within a content-dissolving Both-Sides framework. As they say, correlation of one’s view of the economy with one’s political leaning does not imply causation. To follow on Matt’s comment, perhaps one’s view of the economy rests on how thoughtful one is. And perhaps one’s political leaning rests on how thoughtful one is. Thus correlating the two dependent variables.

  4. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/07/2020 - 10:00 pm.

    Former Governor Dayton forecast an economic downturn as the State surplus grew. Governor Walz has the same reaction that an economic downturn is coming and that any surplus will be needed to weather it. Newspapers have devoted columns and columns proclaiming that recession is eminent, and they are right. Eventually a recession will happen–someday. A person quoted in the article sums up the situation perfectly. “I want it to be good, but I don’t want it to be good,” The hatred of the President leaves us with half of the people wanting economic prosperity and the other half hoping that the country takes a nosedive so that they can blame the President who they say takes the credit even though he didn’t have anything to do with the present situation.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/08/2020 - 05:09 am.

    The opinions of uninformed people only serve the purpose of journalists who are trying to identify how to leverage that ignorance. It’s instructive to know what the survey respondent does for a living to gauge the value of their opinion, since those immersed in the private economy would have a more valid opinion than those on the fringes working in government or non-profits.

    The daily performance of the stock market is your best source of how people feel about their economic future.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/08/2020 - 09:32 am.

      If one’s only indicator of economic prosperity is the increasing fortunes of the wealthy. What percentage would you say, Mr. Tester, of the American populace, has any daily interaction with the stock market beyond a 401k that they neither manage, nor even pay attention to? If those are the ONLY voices you’re willing to listen to, why bother with the pretense of representative governance, feudalism is what you desire, just say so.

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