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The poll shows that 57 percent of Minnesota adults give the DFLer high marks for his performance as governor, and in Hennepin and Ramsey counties that figure soars to 72 percent.
Dayton, who was in Düsseldorf, Germany, on a trade mission, said he was encouraged by the results.
“It shows that people understand that we did what we had to do to restore fiscal balance to the state and we’re on the right track,” he said. Still, he said he is not expecting an easy re-election campaign next year.
The uptick in job approval, led by a turnaround in the opinions of independent voters and an increase in approval among Republicans, follows a legislative session in which Dayton enacted sweeping changes. He pushed for — and got — a $2.1 billion tax increase mostly on the wealthy and on smokers; made Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage; granted state aid for expansions of the Mayo Clinic, 3M and Mall of America; and funded free, all-day kindergarten across the state.
The poll interviewed 800 Minnesota adults between June 11-13, by land line and cellphone, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The sample included 36 percent self-identified Democrats, 30 percent Republicans and 29 percent independents.
Republican Laura Brod, a former state representative who is on the leadership team of former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s Minnesota Action Network, said Dayton’s high job approval numbers might prove temporary.
“The approval ratings right now are probably based on “Well, the session got done.’ But, boy, when a lot of those bills that got signed into law go into effect and people start feeling the real impact of them, I think the numbers will change dramatically,” said Brod, a senior vice president at a public affairs group.
Dayton, whose approval rating had previously bottomed out at 45 percent in February, acknowledges that possibility.
“This is nothing to coast on,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been doing this long enough that I know that polls go up and polls go down.”
Support strongest in metro
Dayton’s job approval was strongest in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where 72 percent approve of what he’s doing.
Democrat Vivian Mason, 74, of Minneapolis, said Dayton is doing a “great job,” noting that “he will talk about things that he wants to get done and he works hard to accomplish them.”
In St. Paul, Jay Beyer-Kropuenske, an independent, said he appreciates Dayton’s work to bring “balance” to the state’s finances.
“Nobody likes to pay more taxes, but if you want to keep a level a service and quality of life,” said Beyer-Kropuenske, 43, the tax increases were “a good thing.” He said the final package went a little far for his taste, but said it was an improvement over the governor’s initial plan, which would have extended the sales tax to clothing and most services.
Poll results released earlier this week showed that Dayton’s final tax plan, which raised income taxes on the state’s wealthiest 2 percent and tobacco taxes on smokers, found strong approval among Minnesotans.
Since February, Dayton’s approval among independents has ticked up 10 percentage points, to 51 percent in June.
Among Democrats, Dayton’s job approval has peaked at 89 percent. Most Republicans still disapprove of Dayton’s time as governor, with 66 percent saying they don’t like his performance as governor.
“I don’t feel that he is adequate for the job,” said Diane Johnson, 75, of Brooklyn Center. Johnson said she is conservative and describes herself as somewhere between independent and Republican. She runs a small business out of her home and says she and her husband “are doing what we can to stay afloat, and it’s not easy.”
Johnson said Dayton’s beliefs about the role of government differ from hers. “Government can’t do everything,” she said. “We’ve got to get out of the way and let the private business[es] do what they have to do.”
Despite the uptick, the Democratic governor is not viewed favorably by a majority of Minnesotans. Forty-four percent of Minnesotans say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 29 percent view him unfavorably. Another 26 percent are neutral. Except for a dip in February, those figures are on track with previous polling by the Star Tribune.
Lynn Krejci, a 63-year-old small business owner from Lakeville, said that while she did not vote for Dayton in 2010 and will not vote for him next year, she gives him kudos.
“He’s working very hard to get done what he feels is important and I honestly really, really admire that,” Krejci said. “I know that he believes that he is doing the right thing. He is being really true to himself and his party and I think that is a good thing.”