WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds a narrowing lead over Republican Donald Trump among likely voters in the state, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
Clinton leads Trump 44 percent to 38 percent in a poll of 625 registered Minnesota voters taken last week. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll reveals a Minnesota electorate that’s facing the final stretch of an extraordinary presidential campaign deeply divided by gender and geography. While voters in the Twin Cities overwhelmingly favor Clinton, those in outlying suburban communities and outstate Minnesota give the edge to Trump. Meanwhile, women voters favor Clinton by a large margin, while men favor Trump.
The results also show that Clinton’s lead has slimmed considerably in Minnesota since the spring, when a Star Tribune poll found Clinton leading by 13 percentage points. The poll signals particular trouble for Clinton in outstate Minnesota, where her slight lead in late April appears to have eroded completely. Other polls nationally over the past week suggest the race is tightening.
Minnesota voters continue to have deep distrust of Clinton and Trump, the poll shows. Clinton’s trust level is lowest in outstate and suburban areas while Trump trails badly among younger voters and those who have lower incomes.
Clinton has her strongest base of support in the Twin Cities, topping Trump 58 percent to 28 percent in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Trump’s support is strongest in the metro suburbs — excluding Hennepin and Ramsey — where he leads Clinton 41 percent to 37 percent, and in rural areas, where Trump tops Clinton 44 percent to 38 percent.
The poll found that a sizable share of voters, about 10 percent, remain undecided. Adding in the large number of voters who say they might still change their mind, there remains the possibility for a lot of shifting before Election Day.
Jerry Leppart of Eden Prairie admitted his vote for the Democratic nominee in November is more anti-Trump than pro-Clinton.
“He is crazy. He doesn’t have any moral compass, he could get us into a Third World War,” said Leppart, who describes himself as “recovering Republican.” “I can’t do that anymore. Like an alcoholic, I would love to vote Republican, but I definitely can’t.”
The poll, conducted Sept. 12 to 14, captured voters’ sentiments after one of Clinton’s roughest stretches of the campaign, first calling half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables” and then abruptly departing a 9/11 remembrance ceremony because of an illness later diagnosed as pneumonia.
The poll highlights Trump’s ongoing weakness among women voters and young people, with voters under the age of 35 favoring Clinton by a 2-to-1 ratio. Among women, Clinton has the support of 52 percent compared with 30 percent for Trump.
Among independents, which could be a critical voting bloc in the coming election, Trump leads Clinton 43 percent to 32 percent.
“I am one of the many who sits in the middle wishing the two candidates were different,” said Michael Druck of Chanhassen. “She is going to stand by her lies and get away with it. He’s going to lose his cool when he doesn’t have a teleprompter. ... I find myself forced into the Trump position, not because I like the man.”
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Clinton’s slipping poll numbers don’t account for the party’s massive voter recruitment effort now underway. He noted that there are 300 paid DFL staffers in 25 offices around the state, far more that what Republicans have in place.
“We always thought this race would tighten, not only around the country but in Minnesota,” Martin said. “But the key point is, Donald Trump has no campaign on the ground here, no field staff. Even as the race is tightening, turnout matters. In the end, in order for him to win tight races, he’s going to have to make investments.”
Trump’s campaign said the poll highlights that the race is nearly tied, despite Clinton’s advantage in fundraising and organization. Trump is closer to Clinton in the state than Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney got to President Obama.
Trump “is outperforming past GOP nominees in our state because new voters, including Democrats and independents, are attracted to their message of more American jobs, strong national defense, affordable health care, better schools and safer streets,” said Andy Post, Trump’s Minnesota state director.
The poll and interviews of respondents afterward found little enthusiasm for either of the leading candidates, with voters not viewing Trump or Clinton very favorably. Clinton’s favorability rating is 40 percent compared with 30 percent for Trump. More than half of respondents — 54 percent — had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and 46 percent had a similarly dim view of Clinton.
Jeff Bethke, of Franklin in southwestern Minnesota, said he is a displeased Democrat who will grudgingly support Clinton.
“I usually vote Democrat, and this time I will, but this is a tough one,” Bethke said. “She’s very untrustworthy. I’m beginning to believe I can’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth anymore.”
No major candidate in recent Star Tribune polls had higher disapproval numbers than Clinton and Trump. Clinton faces continued scrutiny for using a private e-mail server when she served as U.S. secretary of state, and Trump is criticized for comments about women and immigrants, and for routinely praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There seems to be something personal with these two candidates,” said Joseph Peschek, a political scientist at Hamline University in St. Paul. “The lesser of two evils seems to be a little higher than it was in the past.”
Among those polled, 42 percent say Clinton is the most trustworthy and 36 percent say Trump is. Six percent of people said neither were trustworthy or they weren’t sure who was worse.
Trump pulls most of his support out of the exurban areas among men with incomes of more than $50,000 a year who are between the ages of 50 and 64, according to the poll. Among the men polled, 47 percent support Trump and 36 percent support Clinton. Among the women polled, more than half — 52 percent — supported Clinton and 30 percent back Trump.
Among those who reported incomes of less than $50,000 a year, 47 percent supported Clinton and 33 percent favor Trump. Among those making more than $50,000 a year, the race is deadlocked, with Clinton capturing 42 percent to Trump’s 41 percent.
The two third-party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, have captured some attention in Minnesota, with Johnson grabbing 6 percent of support and Stein trailing with 2 percent. Among those supporters, 33 percent say they “might” change their mind before Nov. 8.
Johnson’s campaign said voters are still getting to know the former New Mexico governor, who is attempting to appeal to disaffected voters by framing himself as a socially liberal and fiscally conservative two-term Republican. He is also the only candidate calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“They like what they see so far, but they want to see more, and that makes perfect sense,” said Joe Hunter, a Johnson campaign spokesman.