Leading into November’s election, crime was among the top concerns for likely Minnesotan voters surveyed as part of a new MinnPost/Embold Research poll, and a majority disapproved of how Gov. Tim Walz has responded to the issue during his first term.
About 42% of the 1,585 likely voters across Minnesota polled between Oct. 10 and Oct. 14 listed violent crime as among their top priorities in their upcoming vote in November. Violent crime ranked below only the rising costs of goods and the overturning of Roe v. Wade as top priorities. Concerns about crime as an issue increased as respondents got older, with just 34% of 18 to 34-year-olds listing the issue as a priority this election compared to 47% of respondents between 50 and 64 and 48% of voters age 65+. Crosstabs for the poll can be found here.
Violent crime has emerged as a potent election issue after several surges in criminal activity in recent years. While the issue was among the top concerns of all of those polled, Republican voters were more likely to cite the issue as a priority.
Just a quarter of those polled who voted for Biden in 2020 listed violent crime as a priority issue while 60% of 2020 Trump voters view the issue as a prime concern.
“Republicans across the country are campaigning on crime, clearly wanting to make crime an issue, and so it’s something that’s on voters’ minds for that reason,” said Chris Chapp, a political science professor at St. Olaf College. “It kind of depends on what metrics you look at and where in the country you are and where in the state you are but by some metrics, crime has gone up, and so voters are paying attention.”
Nearly 60% of those polled said they either somewhat or strongly disapproved of how Gov. Tim Walz has combated rising crime in recent years. There was consensus among all age groups, which all hovered around the 60% disapproval rate.
The increase in concern about crime has coincided with police departments across the Twin Cities metro area experiencing staffing struggles amid both the pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a former Minneapolis Police officer, which sparked global outrage and was followed by a wave of resignations, retirements and disability leaves by MPD officers.
The issue was divisive among gender, with 36% of women saying the issue was a priority versus 48% of men – almost the exact opposite of results asking whether abortion was a priority, which saw 53% of women and 33% of men agree. Results were identical across ethnicities but not education level, with fewer college-educated individuals – 37% – viewing the issue as a top concern compared to non-college educated respondents – 47%.
Hundreds of the 1,585 open-ended answers compiled by pollsters included crime as one of the most important issues facing Minnesota and cities across the state. Several lamented that not enough was being done to curb the increase, including one suburban white woman between the ages of 35 and 49 who called for harsher sentences for offenders.
A metro-area suburban white woman over 65 years old who voted for Biden in 2020 cited “crimes to property and innocent people” as the most important concern statewide.
“We are losing our high quality life because of this,” the response reads.
About two-thirds of male respondents said they opposed Walz’s response to crime compared to just more than half of women polled. That margin increased within education level, with nearly 70% of non-college educated individuals expressing disapproval of Walz’s crime policies.
Republican voters overwhelmingly opposed Walz’s performance, with just 2% of 2020 Trump voters approving of how Walz has handled crime.
Despite increases in criminal activity since the last election cycle, Chapp said he doesn’t see the issue playing much of a role in the upcoming election. Though the issue may have a small effect on voter turnout — particularly among Republicans and those who have had personal experiences with crime — the polarization of voters, combined with competition for space in voters’ minds with issues like inflation and women’s reproductive rights, may dampen its impact on election results, he said.
“Republicans and Democrats are so hardened in their partisanship that I don’t think you’re gonna see a lot of movement, one way or another, based on an issue,” he said. “It might get some folks to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have, but I don’t really see it being an issue that’s going to cause voters to sort of reevaluate their preferences.”
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.