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In the Twin Cities area as a whole, opinions were equally divided among the three possible answers, while in the suburbs, 45 percent said the mine should be approved. Again, there were significantly more in the suburbs who were not sure, 36 percent, compared with the number who thought the plan should be rejected.
There were few differences among age and income groups, but there was a clear split along gender lines. Men were more likely to approve than women, and more women than men said they were not sure.
“I’m all for bringing jobs to Minnesota,” said Jodi Denzer, 35, of St. Paul Park. “But I don’t think that we should do things that bring harm to our environment. I just don’t know enough about the situation.”
Republicans were evenly split between approval and “not sure,” with only 3 percent opposing the mine. Democrats said they support the plan, by a small plurality, but that reflects the weight of favorable opinions on the Iron Range, long a DFL enclave, said Coker.
The split among Democratic voters is forcing party leaders to walk a careful line in an election year between their traditional blue-collar base and environmentalists. Gov. Mark Dayton has said that he is keeping an open mind on the issue and plans to wait until he has more information before making a decision, likely late this year at the earliest.
The results were similar to polling that PolyMet and environmental groups have conducted, officials said.
Bruce Richardson, a spokesman for PolyMet, said that the company’s research shows some people are not engaged and are willing to let state regulators manage the decision. Aaron Klemz, communications director for Friends of the BWCA, an advocacy group, said that over time the public’s awareness of the mine and its environmental risks has increased substantially.
Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394