Democrat Hillary Clinton holds a substantial lead over Republican Donald Trump among Minnesota voters in a matchup between the two presidential front-runners, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
Clinton leads Trump 48 percent to 35 percent statewide in a poll of 800 Minnesota voters taken last week.
Trump fares worst in the major cities, among young voters and particularly among women, highlighting the challenges he will face if he becomes the party’s nominee in July.
The poll also reveals warning signs for Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady. She is nearly even with Trump in nine exurban Twin Cities counties, and her slightly wider lead over him in outstate Minnesota is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.
Despite their front-runner status, Clinton and Trump each face big trust problems among Minnesota voters. Just 37 percent of voters think Clinton is honest and only 34 percent say Trump is truthful.
Clinton’s overwhelming popularity in the state’s two most populated counties, Hennepin and Ramsey, made up for her deficiencies in the rest of the state.
“I think, honestly, that she’ll be a great candidate,” said Christine Oakland, a 46-year-old school building engineer from Maple Grove who participated in the poll. Oakland initially preferred Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race but has made her peace with Clinton. “She’s got a lot of knowledge and at least you know you’re getting someone who knows how the job works.”
Oakland confessed another motive: “We need to win because there’s no way in hell I want Donald Trump in there.”
Though Trump finished third in Minnesota’s Republican presidential caucus in March, self-identified Republicans in the poll favored him over both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich when asked who they most wanted to represent their party.
The poll of registered voters has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Increasingly seen as the probable Republican candidate, the billionaire businessman has nonetheless failed to squelch open dissent among many prominent Republicans alarmed by his unconventional style and confrontational approach. The poll found that 54 percent of Republicans expect Trump to be their nominee.
“I’m hoping it’s Trump,” said Sharon Ramberg, a 71-year-old retired business owner who lives in Mentor, in northwestern Minnesota. “Simply because he’s not a politician, and I think everyone is just tired of politicians.”
Ramberg and her husband started OOf-da Tacos, a regional chain of fry bread taco stands. She said they are conservative independents who typically vote Republican, but mentioned they are also fans of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the area’s longtime DFL congressman.
Trump is supported by 34 percent of Republicans, compared to 24 percent for Kasich and 23 percent for Cruz. The totals for Kasich and Cruz plus the 19 percent still undecided leave a full 66 percent of Republicans preferring someone else to Trump.
“I like political incorrectness. But Trump takes it to a point where he’s just rude,” said poll respondent Marcus Piepho, a 26-year-old Mankato man on active duty in the military but still registered to vote in Minnesota.
Piepho is a libertarian-leaning Republican who supported Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for president. He said he would never vote for Clinton, but doesn’t fear her enough to vote for Trump. Besides disapproving of Trump’s manners, Piepho doesn’t like his protectionist trade talk or his immigration stance.
“I could vote for Ted Cruz but if it comes down to Hillary vs. Trump, I will vote for Gary Johnson,” said Piepho, referring to the former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party candidate.
Clinton is doing significantly better than Trump at uniting her party behind her. Even though Sanders won Minnesota’s DFL presidential caucus, the poll found that 54 percent of self-identified Democrats would most like Clinton to be their nominee, compared to 39 percent for Sanders. Just 7 percent were undecided, indicating most Democrats have made up their mind.
“There was a time when I thought I might go for Sanders but I saw him stumble on questions about breaking up the banks, and on some foreign policy questions, and that sealed the deal for me,” said Chris Harris, a 46-year-old music teacher in Owatonna.
Of Clinton, he said: “Yeah, she’s an insider. But I don’t know about you — I want my doctor to be an insider. I want him to know what he’s doing. I don’t care about the person, I care about the expertise.”
The poll found that Sanders retains a higher favorable rating than Clinton with Democrats. It also showed him with bigger winning margins against both Trump and Cruz in Minnesota than Clinton is able to muster.
That result is similar to a number of other polls nationwide. For Sanders, it has become an argument for staying in the race — that he gives Democrats a surer shot at beating Trump or Cruz. Clinton’s supporters counter that she’s been subject to far more intensive vetting over the years than Sanders, as well as more sustained criticism from Republicans.
In the poll’s showdown between Clinton and Trump, she holds either large or narrow leads over him in every part of the state, in all age groups, among people who earn more than $50,000 a year and those who make less. The one notable demographic where Trump leads is with men, with 42 percent backing him compared to 39 percent for Clinton, within the poll’s margin of error. Clinton holds a much larger lead over Trump among women, 55 to 29 percent.
James Garrett Jr., a 44-year-old architect who lives in St. Paul, is unhappy with his choices. A Sanders supporter, he sees his favorite candidate’s chances as increasingly remote. He’s unwilling to vote for a Republican but, having come of age as a progressive during the first Clinton presidency, he’s not ready for a return to their style of politics.
“They want to be considered liberals and progressives when it’s convenient,” Garrett said of the Clintons. What will he do in November if it’s Clinton vs. Trump?
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he said.