Gov. Tim Walz has campaigned on a “One Minnesota” theme. But when it comes to voter attitudes, there could be three Minnesotas.
A new October poll of 1,585 likely voters by MinnPost/Embold Research found an improving mood among likely voters surveyed in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a gloomy but largely unchanged one in Greater Minnesota and an outlook in the metro suburbs that is far worse than views in a similar June poll.
The divisions may not be explained solely by the geography of where voters live. There are substantial gaps in voter preference along education and gender lines, for instance. But the likely voters surveyed in each region nevertheless tend to have different views.
Twin Cities residents are relatively happy about the direction of the state and have favorable views of elected DFL politicians like Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison. The most common issue to play a factor in their upcoming vote was abortion and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
But those surveyed in the metro-area suburbs and Greater Minnesota are more likely to report being pinched by the cost of gas and groceries and cite illegal immigration as a priority in their upcoming vote. Most also hold unfavorable views of even the most popular Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Suburbs swinging away from DFL?
The MinnPost/Embold Research poll identified likely voters in three major geographic categories: Minneapolis-St. Paul, the seven-county metro area excluding the Twin Cities, and Greater Minnesota. Crosstabs can be found here.
The margins of error in those subregions are larger because of smaller sample sizes. Statewide, the margin of error for the October poll was +/- 2.6 percentage points. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points in the two Twin Cities, +/- 7 percentage points in the metro area excluding Minneapolis and St. Paul and +/- 4 percentage points in Greater Minnesota.
That means the results aren’t as precise, but the data still offers a window into voter mood and preferences.
The biggest shift in attitudes may have come in the metro area suburbs, where more people in the October survey said the state and country is on the wrong track and views on several Democrats, including Walz and Ellison, plummeted since the June poll of likely voters.
In the June poll, Walz had a +2 net job approval rating. In the October survey, that fell to -22. More people also viewed Ellison unfavorably, an increase from 45% in June to 58% in October.
The worse rating for Democrats and the gloomier outlook for the state and country came even as metro suburban residents polled reported a better, though still negative, economic picture. For instance, 68% of those surveyed in October said their income was falling behind the cost of living, which was down from 77% in June. And 52% said gas prices were difficult for them in October, which is also down from 61% in June.
One reason for such a large swing could be the high margin of error of +/- 7 percent in the suburbs. It’s the smallest sample of the three major regions in the poll.
“Part of this is inevitably due to just the sample looking a little bit different,” said Embold’s Ben Greenfield, who managed the poll. “The sample in the metro area just looked a little bit more Republican this time. That has effects on the answers that we saw for basically all of the questions.”
Still, the change could in part reflect changing attitudes. “Maybe Republicans in the metro (suburbs) have gotten more upset about things so they’ve been more likely to take a survey since last time,” Greenfield said. (The sample in the Twin Cities was more left-leaning than the prior poll, too.)
Metro suburban voters had a far more negative view of Walz’s performance on jobs and his rating on crime remained well underwater at -34 approval.
Suburban voters by a 33-point margin said they were more worried about inflation than abortion rights being taken away. And the top two issues listed as priorities in their upcoming vote were rising cost of goods and violent crime.
Crime and inflation have been the two central campaign themes for the GOP this year.
Minneapolis-St. Paul outlook improved
Overall, the likely voters surveyed in Minneapolis and St. Paul appear happier than their counterparts across the state. They also have a (comparably) sunnier outlook than Twin Cities likely voters polled in early June.
For instance, in June, 47% in the DFL-friendly Twin Cities said that Minnesota was headed in the right direction while a dismal 23% said the country was on the right track. Both numbers have increased. In October, 60% said Minnesota is on the right track and 37% said the U.S. is on the right track.
October respondents from the Twin Cities were also happier with Walz and Biden. The governor gained ground over his Republican opponent Scott Jensen in Minneapolis and St. Paul, leading Jensen 63-26 in October after being up 55-28 in June. And while 53% of Twin Cities residents had a favorable view of Walz in June, 61% had a favorable view of the governor in the October survey.
The jump is large for Biden, too. In October, 56% in Minneapolis and St. Paul said they had a favorable view of the president, and Biden had a +21 net favorable rating, compared to June, when his overall favorability rating was neutral.
The change could reflect an improving economic picture. Fewer Twin Cities residents said their income was falling behind the cost of living in October than June, and fewer people said gas prices were either difficult or an inconvenience. Sentiments on the price of groceries were roughly the same.
Minneapolis-St. Paul residents also had a more unfavorable view in October of Jensen and Republican attorney general candidate Jim Schultz. Gains in the cities by Walz and Ellison Ellison — could be explained in part by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
By a narrow margin, more likely voters polled in the Twin Cities said abortion rights being taken away worried them compared to inflation and the rising cost of living.
Ellison was tied in the poll with Schultz, while Walz held a modest lead.
Greater Minnesota steady in negative views
The mood of likely voters in Greater Minnesota was largely unchanged from the June survey.
In June, 36% said the state was on the right track and 19% said the country was on the right track. In October, 37% said Minnesota was on the right track compared to 23% for the nation.
Likely voters have roughly the same view of Walz, Biden and Ellison — negative — and favorable views toward Jensen. And they reported similar attitudes on the economy. In June, 79% said their income was falling behind the cost of living. In October, that was up to 80%.
A 57% majority now say gas prices are difficult, but that is down slightly from June. But groceries remain difficult for 56% of respondents in Greater Minnesota, which is the same from June.
Issues that unite the state
Likely voters in the survey weren’t split on everything. They did agree on several issues, though not at the same rate. Even though more people in Greater Minnesota and the metro suburbs said their income was falling behind the cost of living, a solid majority across the state said their income was not keeping up. The pinch of grocery prices was similar.
Every region of the state broadly supported abortion access in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of a mother. And a majority in every region said Minneapolis should legalize the sale of edibles derived from both hemp and marijuana. Only a majority in the Twin Cities said gun laws should be more strict. But few voters across the state said gun laws should be less strict.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 10 to Oct. 14, and respondents included 1,585 likely general election voters. The poll was conducted by Embold Research, the nonpartisan arm of Change Research. The pollsters recruit respondents via targeted ads on websites and social media platforms. Change Research has a B- pollster rating from FiveThirtyEight.
Embold Research uses a “modeled” margin of error, which it says accounts for the effects of weighting the poll (or making adjustments to better reflect the state’s demographics). The results were weighted on age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, and 2020 presidential vote.
The margins of error in the June poll were +/- 4.6% in the two Twin Cities, +/- 5.4% in the metro area, and +/- 3.5% in Greater Minnesota.