President Donald Trump’s big moves in recent months on international trade and tariffs have Minnesotans split, with more people disapproving of his actions, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll.
Forty-eight percent disapprove of the Republican president’s trade negotiations, and 42 percent approve. When asked about the effects of Trump’s tariffs, 46 percent said they believe the tariffs will raise costs on goods imported from other countries and hurt the U.S. economy, while 34 percent believe it will protect jobs.
“There’s going to be a lot of jobs lost here because of the tariffs,” said Sande Miller, 63, of Blaine, who was polled. A Democrat and retired airline baggage handler, Miller said she worries about the cost of groceries and clothing increasing. “It’s a slap in the face to the poor again, and the farmers.”
Despite concerns about consumer costs and economic impact, 40 percent say the tariffs will leave them neither financially worse nor better off. Virginia Overton, a 66-year-old retiree from the Bemidji area, said Trump is making the right moves even if it results in some adjustments.
“The tariffs are impacting everybody right now. It’s going to affect me in ways that I may not know,” said Overton, who’s from Laporte. “But I still think it’s the right thing to do.”
The Minnesota Poll reveals a deep division about tariffs and trade between Republicans and Democrats, as well as urban, suburban and rural residents in a state where various economic sectors differ greatly in the consequences they face from tariffs. Among residents of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, 64 percent disapprove of Trump’s trade negotiations with other countries, while approval was highest among northern Minnesota residents, at 53 percent.
Earlier this month, the U.S. reached a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, though the deal didn’t remove U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum — tariffs the U.S. has also imposed broadly on other countries. That led to retaliatory measures from China, which imposed counter-tariffs on soybeans. China is the biggest importer of U.S.-grown soybeans.
Minnesota farmers, who exported more than $1 billion worth of soybeans to China in 2016, and pork producers are reeling from the tariffs. But some farmers say they still support Trump and remain hopeful that he can secure better trade deals for American business in general.
Meanwhile, northern Minnesota’s ore mines on the Iron Range are pleased with higher steel prices, though some Minnesota companies are complaining that they cannot get raw materials they need domestically because of the steel tariffs.
In the Minnesota Poll, which surveyed 800 likely voters in telephone interviews Oct. 15-17, voters seemed divided on the impact of trade and tariffs. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and of those surveyed, 38 percent identified as Democrats, 33 percent as Republicans and 29 percent as Independent.
Overton, the retiree in northern Minnesota, is surrounded by corn and soybean farms and knows farmers are taking a hit from the tariffs, but she thinks they will eventually protect local jobs. “This country should be run like a business,” Overton said.
“We’ve been screwed for years. We give more than we receive,” she said. “I feel bad the farmers and other people are taking a hit, but I’m hoping it will fix it for them in the long term.”
Brian Kraft, 69, of New Brighton, also thinks Trump’s actions will help U.S. companies compete. He spent 30 years as a manufacturing representative for furniture companies and said he watched as some businesses shuttered, unable to vie with cheaper goods shipped from overseas.
“This is the thing we have to do to bring back good paying jobs,” said Kraft, a Trump supporter who owns a small business. “I think we’ve got to make our country stronger. In the long run, I think we’ll be better off.”
Kelley Bayles, 59, of Shakopee works three jobs and said she’s already struggling to make ends meet. She worries the tariffs will trickle down to increased prices, and she calls Trump a “world bully.”
“I think it’s going to be bad for our economy,” said Bayles, a Democrat. “I think everybody will be impacted from the large cities to the small … I’m just somebody trying to get by. I can’t afford to pay more for the things I need.”
In the poll, the largest number of voters who said the tariffs will leave them financially worse off are in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, at 48 percent. Southern Minnesota voters were divided, with 35 percent saying Trump’s tariffs will leave them worse off, and 37 percent saying they’ll be about the same financially. A small plurality of suburban and northern Minnesota residents — 44 percent and 46 percent, respectively — said they won’t be impacted.
“Someone’s got to pay for the bailout for the farmers,” said Miller, the retired Blaine baggage handler. “[Trump has] got the northern and the southern [regions] against the middle of the state.”
Rachel Scheurer, 49, of Mankato said she still has faith in Trump’s decisions. She said she hasn’t heard local hog farmers complain about the tariffs, but then again, she said issues such as taxes and immigration are overshadowing trade and tariffs this election.
“Tariffs are on the back burner,” she said, “because there’s too much going on.”