Minnesota voters believe Democrat Hillary Clinton would do a better job of improving the economy, handling foreign policy and tackling terrorism than Republican Donald Trump, according a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The poll, which showed Clinton leading overall with 44 percent of the vote to Trump’s 38 percent, also asked voters to pick which of the two leading candidates they thought was best equipped to tackle specific issues — and which candidate best understands the needs of the average American.
Statewide, Clinton came out on top on each issue, but took the biggest lead on foreign policy, where 49 percent said she’d do a better job handling those issues and 35 percent picked Trump. Another 10 percent said another candidate would do better, while 6 percent were not sure. On the question of who could best handle threats posed by ISIL and global terrorism, 46 percent selected Clinton to Trump’s 41 percent. The divide was narrower on the issue of which candidate would do a better job of creating jobs and improving the economy, with 42 percent picking Clinton and 40 percent selecting Trump.
Meanwhile, 44 percent of voters said Clinton best understands the needs of average Americans, while 34 percent thought Trump is most in touch.
“She worked more with the underprivileged, the middle class — she’s worked with those people all her life, even when she was young,” said Marie Dretsch, a 64-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Frazee, Minn., who participated in the poll and is backing Clinton. Dretsch said she trusts Clinton’s expertise on a variety of issues, but is also troubled by the prospect of how Trump would react to challenges on a variety of issues.
“Mr. Trump scares the living hell out of me, with his being so brash and ‘I know it all, I can fix it all,’ ” she said. “There’s no one person who can do that.”
Clinton’s margins on the economy, foreign policy and terrorism were higher among voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, at the center of the metro area.
But in suburban communities outside those two counties and in other areas of the state, the poll revealed a higher level of trust in Trump’s competency on the economy and fighting terrorism.
On the question of who would do the most for the economy and job creation, for example, 57 percent of Hennepin and Ramsey county voters picked Clinton, while 32 percent selected Trump. But 42 percent of suburban voters picked Trump, with 33 percent selecting Clinton. And in the rest of the state, 45 percent of voters said Trump would be better for the economy, while 36 percent backed Clinton.
Christina Niedernhoefer, 64, of Blaine, said she’s confident Trump is the stronger candidate on both the economy and immigration. Niedernhoefer, who retired from a career in business administration, said she has a personal interest in strong immigration policy because she’s an immigrant herself, from England.
While she doesn’t always agree with Trump’s style — “I wish he had a coach for that,” she said — Niedernhoefer said she agrees with the candidate’s stance on limiting immigration to help protect the country from terrorism.
“I believe America is a phenomenal country … but we need to say, with as large as we are, we need to be careful and take care of the American people who are here already,” she said.
Niedernhoefer said she’s not convinced Clinton is running for “the right reasons.”
“I don’t think that woman cares one fig for you or I, the people in America,” she said.
The Minnesota Poll interviewed 625 likely Minnesota voters from Sept. 12 to 14. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points, plus or minus.
On one subject area raised in the poll, however, Clinton appeared to have more support than Trump from voters in communities across the state: foreign policy. Voters in urban, suburban and outstate communities around Minnesota gave Clinton higher marks than Trump for her ability to tackle the subject.
The poll shows Trump may have an edge among younger baby boomers — though Clinton leads with both younger adults and seniors.
In terms of a candidate’s aptitude on issues, Clinton consistently won out over Trump among voters between the ages of 18 and 49, and voters over 65. But among voters between the ages of 50 and 64, Trump edged out Clinton on the question of who would do better at creating jobs. Among that same group of voters, the two candidates received an equal percent of votes on who is more in touch with average Americans.
Allan Wiinamaki, 53, of Maple Grove, is among that group of Trump supporters. But he said his decision is less about where Trump comes down on specific issues and more about how the Republican Party aligns with his religious beliefs. Wiinamaki said he has some concerns about Trump’s lack of a long-term record on conservative issues, but believes Trump is his best bet for supporting conservative positions on abortion and other hot-button issues.
“I was a late decision on Trump,” Wiinamaki said. “I would have picked anyone but him on the Republican ticket, but given the choice between him and a Democrat … I think he’s more aligned with my worldview.”
A small percentage of Minnesota voters, however, indicated that they think another candidate could do better on jobs, terrorism and other challenges facing the country. On the question of which candidate best understands the needs of average Americans, 15 percent of voters surveyed indicated support for a third-party candidate.
Carolyn Carlson, 47, of St. Paul, said she’s always voted for Democrats. But this year, she’s backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein because she believes both Clinton and Trump are “out of touch.”
“If you’re only hobnobbing with people with lots of money, that’s the perspective you get,” she said.
Cory Rossow, 52, of Morgan, is supporting the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson. He said he believes Johnson faces a learning curve on some of the challenges of the presidency, but that his vote will come down to a matter of trust, rather than expertise on issues.
“If I can’t trust either one of them to do what they say, can’t trust either one of them to be consistent in what they say, how can you vote for either one of them?” he said.