The latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, published this week, found some good news for Democrats who are hoping to block President Donald Trump from flipping the state to the Republican column in 2020. But a deeper dive into the poll findings shows not everything may be rosy for the DFL.
First, some disclaimers. This edition of the Minnesota Poll, which included interviews with 800 registered Minnesota voters, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%. That margin of error can increase dramatically when looking at smaller groups within the sample. This is also just a single poll, more than a year before the 2020 presidential election. Much can change in the next 12 months. It’s important to keep all of this in mind and not get too carried away when analyzing the results.
That said, here are four takeaways from this week's poll. Note: Total percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
1. GOP remains dominant outside Hennepin and Ramsey counties
While Democrats enjoy a massive advantage in the state’s two most populous counties — home to about one-third of Minnesota’s voters — much of the rest of the state remains solidly red. Republicans appear to be gaining strength in the rest of the metro region as well, suggesting congressional Democrats representing these areas could face tough reelection fights next year.
When the Minnesota Poll first asked about Trump’s job approval in April 2017, 43% of respondents in the metro suburbs (defined in the poll as the nine counties other than Hennepin and Ramsey in the 11-county metro area) said they approved of Trump’s performance, compared with 50% in southern Minnesota and 53% in northern Minnesota. In the most recent survey, voters in the metro suburbs were just as likely to approve of the president’s job performance as those in Greater Minnesota.
Respondents in the metro suburbs also opposed impeachment at the same rates as those in northern and southern Minnesota and were just as likely to self-identify as Republicans.
2. The oldest Minnesota voters are not Trump’s strongest supporters
That title belongs to those in the 50-64 age demographic, who were the most likely to identify as Republicans (42% of those interviewed vs. just 29% who said they were Democrats), approve of Trump’s job performance and oppose impeachment. These voters were born between 1954 and 1969 — think younger Baby Boomers who were not old enough to have gone to Woodstock and older Gen-Xers who came of age well before Woodstock ‘94. In contrast, 45% of respondents age 65 or older identified as Democrats, while 37% identified as Republicans.
3. A significant percentage of Republicans say Trump abuses the power of his office (but he shouldn’t be impeached)
One of the Minnesota Poll’s more surprising findings was the sizable gap between the percentage of Republicans who say Trump should not be impeached and removed from office (93%) and those who say Trump does not abuse the powers of his office (73%). We dug into the individual responses and found 31 of the 257 Republicans interviewed — about one in eight — said Trump abuses his powers but he should not be impeached for it. That’s compared with just five out of 303 Democrats interviewed (less than 2%) and 15 out of 240 respondents who identified as independent or other (about 6%).
As a side note, one question we were asked repeatedly after the poll results were published was why were so many more Democrats interviewed than Republicans — wouldn’t it be more fair to interview equal numbers from each party?
While that may seem logical, it isn’t how it really works. Pollsters want a sample that looks like a scaled-down version of the larger population. The greater number of Democrats in the sample reflects the reality that more voters in Minnesota (as well as nationally) identify as Democrats than as Republicans. This has been borne out by numerous surveys of voters in recent years.
In 2017, a Gallup poll found Democrats had a 10-point party identification advantage over Republicans in Minnesota. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found Minnesota Democrats held a 7-point advantage over Republicans. In this week’s Minnesota Poll, 38% of respondents identified as Democrats and 32% identified as Republicans. That doesn’t mean the poll sample was perfect, but it also doesn't appear that Republicans were wildly undersampled, as some commenters suggested.
You can read more about how the poll was conducted and see a demographic breakdown of the poll sample at the bottom of all our results pages.
4. Democrats appear to have significant advantages with women and younger voters
Gender and age gaps between the parties have been among the biggest stories in U.S. politics for years, so it’s not exactly a surprise. It’s still interesting to see it reflected in these poll findings.
In each of the four head-to-head 2020 potential matchups we asked about (Joe Biden vs. Trump, Elizabeth Warren vs. Trump, Bernie Sanders vs. Trump and Amy Klobuchar vs. Trump), a majority of women supported the Democratic candidate. Meanwhile, men also favored each of the Democrats over Trump, but Klobuchar was the only candidate to win a majority of Minnesota males. About 43% of the 418 women interviewed in the poll identified as Democrats, while just 31% said they are Republicans. That’s compared with 34% of men who identified as Republicans and 33% as Democrats.
Similarly, large majorities of respondents between the ages of 18 and 35 (Millennials and the oldest members of Generation Z) backed the Democratic candidate in each of our head-to-head matchups, while Democrats held a whopping 31-point party identification advantage among the 142 respondents within this age demographic.
Of course, the perennial question remains: How many of them will turn out to vote on Election Day?
This post has been updated.