WASHINGTON – Minnesota voters are split over whether GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump was right to raise concerns about the election being rigged against him, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota poll.
Statewide, 47 percent of those polled think Trump was wrong to question the legitimacy of the U.S. election system and 43 percent think his criticism is on target.
The poll surveyed 625 likely Minnesota voters who were interviewed Oct. 20-22 by landline and cellphones. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The divide on the question widened by geography: 59 percent of those in Minnesota’s most populous counties of Hennepin and Ramsey said they consider Trump’s ongoing comments about the possible illegitimacy of the looming vote off base. But more than half — 52 percent — in outstate Minnesota said they think he is right to raise such concerns. Those in metro area suburbs were split, with 48 percent saying Trump is right to question the election, but 47 percent saying he is not.
Trump has drawn criticism from leaders of both parties for making claims that the election is being rigged against him, which has intensified in recent weeks as national polls show him trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But allies of Trump have expressed concern about voter fraud, particularly by undocumented immigrants, that could help Democrats.
The Minnesota Poll found that older voters were most likely to find it acceptable for Trump to question the legitimacy of the election, with 45 percent of those over 65 siding with Trump. Only 37 percent of those between 18 and 34 thought Trump was right to raise concerns.
Minnesotans are divided sharply along party lines. Among DFLers, only 26 percent called Trump’s questions legitimate and 66 percent said he was not right to question the election outcome. Among Republicans, 61 percent agreed with Trump while 27 percent did not.
DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon has spent the last week since Trump’s debate comments meeting with local officials to make sure election results are accurate.
“Minnesota’s election will not be rigged,” he said.
Doug Chapin, an elections expert at the University of Minnesota, says political advocates on both sides have routinely questioned the election systems, but usually after contentious campaigns.
“What’s new this time around is this notion, in advance, before any votes have been cast,” Chapin said. “I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s dangerous, but I think it’s forced election officials to defend their procedures and in some ways I think that’s good.”
State DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin called the poll results disturbing. He said whoever is elected president must rebuild people’s trust in government and institutions.
“I think people are skeptical,” Martin said. “It’s a sign that obviously the majority of Americans still have a distrust of institutions and a growing distrust of politicians and the political system.”
Meanwhile, the intensely negative tone of the final weeks of the presidential campaign has taken a toll on the believability of both candidates, the poll found.
Likely voters find Trump and Clinton less honest and trustworthy than they did in mid-September, when the last Minnesota Poll was taken.
Trump has faced withering criticism for a video showing him making lewd comments about women as Clinton has been dogged by new revelations about her use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state.
Just 38 percent of respondents statewide think Clinton is the more honest candidate, while 32 percent think Trump is more honest.
Those numbers have fallen from September, when a Minnesota Poll found that 42 percent thought Clinton was more honest and trustworthy and 36 percent gave the nod to Trump.
Clinton has her strongest support in Hennepin and Ramsey counties while Trump garners his deepest support from voters in the state’s rural areas. Neither candidate fares particularly well in the metro suburbs: only 33 percent of respondents in the suburbs say they think Clinton is trustworthy, essentially tied with Trump at 35 percent.
State GOP Chairman Keith Downey said he doesn’t expect the trust issue or the election questions to play a defining role in the outcome Nov. 8.
“It’s almost as though the personal attributes in the candidates will end up canceling each other out,” he said.