An overwhelming majority of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters in Minnesota are very alarmed by the prospect of the other candidate winning the presidency, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The growing polarization of the U.S. electorate has been a major dynamic of recent presidential cycles, and the poll finds it is playing out in Minnesota this year. A full 84 percent of Clinton’s supporters said they are “very alarmed” that Trump could become president, while 69 percent of the Republican’s supporters said the same of the Democratic candidate.
“I would probably actually leave the country” if Trump is elected, said Jessica Teppo, a poll respondent from St. Paul. The 38-year-old, who works in a pottery studio and as a personal chef, said she has been considering graduate school and would look for one abroad should January usher in a Trump inauguration.
Those percentages drop among the wider set of poll respondents, but are still significant. Statewide, 46 percent of poll respondents said they were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned that Clinton will be elected; a full 58 percent said the same of Trump.
“It seems like every single person I talk to thinks both Clinton and Trump are both terrible choices,” said Shawn Seerup, a 34-year-old salesman from Cottage Grove. Seerup is planning to vote for the Libertarian Party candidate, former GOP New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who registered 6 percent support overall in the Minnesota Poll.
The poll of 625 registered Minnesota voters was conducted Sept. 12-14. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Seerup is conspiratorially minded about the presidential race, calling Trump “a decoy” and saying he believes Clinton will be elected “regardless of what the vote count is.” Seerup said he is at least a little more alarmed by the prospect of President Hillary Clinton than President Donald Trump, as he rattled off a list of alleged misdeeds by Clinton.
“She should be in jail right now,” he said.
Interviews with Trump supporters who were polled bear out results showing at least a little more concern among Clinton supporters about Trump than the other way around.
“I wouldn’t leave the country if she became president, but I would not be happy,” said Arlene Englert, a 77-year-old Eagan retiree who is supporting Trump. “There’s a big, big trust factor with her, and it’s accrued over the years.”
Like many Minnesota Republicans, Englert was initially skeptical of Trump.
“But the more I listen and read about his background, I think he’s a man of integrity. I think he’s an honest person. I see a man that has never smoked, never drank, never done drugs. I think that takes some discipline and integrity in a person,” she said.
Jerry Degn, a 55-year-old financial analyst from Bloomington, said he’s been very unhappy with President Obama’s tenure and believes Clinton would offer more of the same. While he finds Trump “shockingly crude,” he has faith that Trump’s success in business would translate into effective political leadership.
“You don’t succeed in business without some ability to surround yourself with the kind of people you need to help you succeed,” Degn said.
Clinton supporters see nothing to like or admire about Trump. Several expressed fundamental fears about his ability to conduct world affairs and manage America’s nuclear arsenal.
“He’s a narcissistic sociopath,” Teppo said. “He blatantly lies, he loses his temper, it’s like he has arrested development. He’s like a child. If we had a date, it wouldn’t last more than an hour. I just can’t imagine him becoming president.”
Ben Nicholson, a 47-year-old Clinton supporter from Champlin, said he thinks Trump would likely be America’s worst president to date. At the same time, he said, he’s tired of hyperbole on both sides.
“I don’t think if Trump became president, it would be the end of the U.S. as we know it,” said Nicholson, a high school teacher. “We have structures in place to limit any one person’s impact on the country.”
Nicholson and several other Clinton supporters interviewed said they believe that media coverage of the election has magnified the severity of Clinton’s alleged misdeeds while downplaying Trump’s.
“They say they want to portray both sides equally, but how can you do that when everything one side says is a lie?” said Marilyn Borea, a 79-year-old Minneapolis retiree.
Borea, a former Minneapolis school board member, said she is alarmed by thinking about Trump as president. But that’s not driving her support for Clinton, she said. “
“I think she’s the best qualified candidate for president in my lifetime,” Borea said. “I would be for her just as strongly if someone else had gotten the nomination. But I guess I would say I wouldn’t be as frightened if it had been one of the other Republican candidates.”
Still, it is a year where negative qualities seem to be driving a lot of voting decisions.
“I fear for the future more with Hillary than I do with Trump,” said John Painter, an 86-year-old retired truck parts salesman from Minneapolis. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fear on either side.”
Painter said he’s been influenced, more than any other issue, by displeasure with Obama’s federal health care law. “We lost our doctor. We pay more for lesser coverage,” Painter said.
More than anything, that has made him willing to take a leap of faith with Trump.
“I just don’t trust her,” Painter said of Clinton. “With Trump, it’s unknown waters.”