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Jobs, health care and public safety top Minnesota voters’ lists of concerns

Other issues, like the importance of addressing climate change or concern about COVID-19, revealed clear partisan splits.

When asked to identify the three issues that most influence their vote, 47 percent of likely voters surveyed cited the economy and jobs as among their top issues.
When asked to identify the three issues that most influence their vote, 47 percent of likely voters surveyed cited the economy and jobs as among their top issues.
Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

It’s not uncommon for jobs and economic issues to take the center-stage in a presidential campaign year: in fact, conventional wisdom posits that incumbent presidents win when the economy’s good, and lose when it’s bad (of course, it’s not that simple).

Amid the pandemic, and the historic high unemployment and uncertainty accompanying it, more Minnesotans cited the economy and jobs as a factor motivating their vote in the upcoming election than any other issue, according to a new MinnPost poll conducted by Change Research.

When asked to identify the three issues that most influence their vote, 47 percent of likely voters surveyed cited the economy and jobs as among their top issues. The majority of respondents who were men, likely voters between the ages of 35 to 49 and 50 to 64, and those who identified themselves as Republicans or who lean Republican, chose the economy and jobs as a major motivating factor.

The online poll surveyed 1,021 likely voters in Minnesota between Oct. 12 and Oct. 15 in an effort to understand not only who they’re supporting, but why. The statewide results’ margin of sampling error is +/- 3.1 percentage points and larger for subgroups. Crosstabs can be found here, and more data will be released as MinnPost reports on additional results.

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Health care and public safety

Much of the messaging surrounding the 2018 midterm election was about access to health care.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the poll suggests the issue is again top of mind for voters. The issue cited by the second largest share of voters as motivating their choices was health care and drug costs, at 40 percent. This was of particular importance to women, 45 percent of whom cited it as a top issue, those over 65 (41 percent), and those who identified as Democrats or lean Democrat (54 percent).

Cynthia Rugeley, head of the political science department at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said most surveys tend to show the COVID-19 pandemic as a larger concern (26 percent of this poll’s cited it as a top concern), but she said she is not surprised health care is a top issue given the high-profile court fight over the Affordable Care Act and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The study’s findings add to growing evidence of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on minority communities within the United States.
REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the poll suggests the issue is again top of mind for voters.
Rugeley said health care “is always going to be a big issue,” and that is exacerbated when many people are unemployed and without health care through their work. Still, she said given the wording of the options, some may have picked health care when their concerns are driven by COVID-19.

Thirty-nine percent of likely voters also said crime and public safety were a top concern influencing their vote, including 69 percent of those who identify as Republican or lean Republican, 42 percent of men, and more than 40 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 49 and 50 to 64.

Racism and discrimination came up as a top issue for 28 percent of respondents, cited by 50 percent of those who identified as Democrat or lean Democrat, 47 percent of those ages 18 to 34, and 46 percent of people of color.

Partisan split on some issues

Other topics were of less concern to likely voters across the board, but were often cited by specific groups as important issues:

Twenty-six percent of likely voters overall, but half of Democrats and likely voters who lean toward Democrats cited climate change as a major issue.

Fewer than a quarter of respondents overall but nearly half of voters over age 65 said Medicare and Social Security were a top issue.

Twenty-six percent of respondents overall, but 49 percent of former Vice President Joe Biden supporters said safety from COVID-19 was a top issue.

Twenty-two percent of likely voters overall, but 42 percent of President Donald Trump’s supporters cited guns as a top issue.

The poll suggests that the Supreme Court (cited as a major factor by 17 percent of respondents), immigration (15 percent), abortion (11 percent) and trade policy (6 percent) may be of less concern to Minnesota voters this year.

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Racial equity

The poll also asked questions specific to topics that have been in the news lately.

In late-May, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking protests across Minneapolis, the U.S. and the world and galvanizing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Fifty-one percent of respondents to the poll said they strongly or somewhat support Black Lives Matter, compared to 45 percent who oppose or strongly oppose it.

A mural honoring George Floyd
MinnPost photo by Walker Orenstein
A mural honoring George Floyd on display outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis near where he died.
Among subgroups of likely voters, 59 percent of women, 42 percent of men, 63 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds, 56 percent of those 65 or older, 60 percent of people of color, 50 percent of whites and 94 percent of Democrats or Democratic learners said they supported or strongly supported Black Lives Matter, compared to 4 percent of Republicans or Republican leaners.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they thought Gov. Tim Walz did a good or excellent job of responding to unrest in the Twin Cities after the police killing of George Floyd, compared to 64 who deemed the governor’s response not so good or poor. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats or Democratic learners approved of Walz’s handling of the unrest, compared to 25 percent of independents and 1 percent of Republicans.

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The Supreme Court

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before Election Day had the potential to make the U.S. Supreme Court a major issue in this year’s election.

The poll suggests that might not be the case for Minnesota voters, again, with just 17 percent of voters saying the high court is a major issue to them.

An interior view of the Supreme Court
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Handout via REUTERS
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before Election Day had the potential to make the U.S. Supreme Court a major issue in this year’s election.
Still, 45 percent, or nearly half of respondents indicated they were very or somewhat in favor of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Forty-one percent said they felt somewhat or very unfavorable towards her. Nine percent were neutral and 5 percent had never heard of her.

Methodology note: As with Tuesday’s results, this poll was conducted online. Change Research’s methodology involves targeting survey takers based on geography, age, gender, race and partisan identification via advertisements on websites and on social media. The company argues this allows it to “cast a net that is wider” than pollsters who rely on phone-based surveys. This poll was weighted — meaning the results were corrected to better represent the electorate — by gender, race/ethnicity, age, education and 2016 presidential vote.

Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.