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.
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.
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.