About half of Minnesotans say recent price increases have led to a minor financial stress on their households while a third felt major stress, a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll shows.

"Trips to the grocery store or to restaurants are just a little bit more expensive than it feels like they should be," said Robert Fensterman, a 40-year-old software engineer living in Duluth, who credits a raise with helping make those increases a minor stress for him.

The economy and inflation are central issues in the fall election as both parties are battling for control of Congress, the Minnesota Legislature and the governor's office.

The poll revealed a deep divide along party lines. Nearly two-thirds of DFLers described rising prices as a minor household financial stress, along with less than half of independents and Republicans. The poll found only 18% of Democrats called price increases a major stress, compared to 38% of independents and 45% of Republicans.

"Almost all the things we purchase for our household ... like eggs, milk, whatever it might be, everything across the board has increased from what it used to be not very long ago," said Esther Muckenhirn, 55, a Zimmerman resident who voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020.

That has led to creative budgeting, she said, and trying to conserve on gas and cutting some activities.

"It's really changed our lifestyle," said Muckenhirn, and the increases have been a major stress on her household.

Only 16% of poll respondents said inflation has caused no stress.

The survey also found that the economy and jobs ranked as the most influential area for voters regarding the race for governor.

The poll found some pessimism about what's ahead. Only about a quarter of respondents said they think inflation will get better in the next year, while nearly half expect it to get worse and slightly over a quarter said it will remain the same.

"I don't have a lot of optimism that we're going to fix things in the next year. I have hope. But not a lot of optimism," said Fensterman, a Democrat who voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 and feels things will stay the same.

Democrats were the most optimistic about the future, with 44% believing that price increases will ease in the next year, compared with 19% bracing for them to get worse and 36% thinking the situation will remain the same. Only 5% of Republicans held the view that circumstances will improve, with 75% believing they will worsen.

Nikhil Joglekar, a 43-year-old commodity analyst in West St. Paul, is expecting the situation to get a little bit worse. A Democrat who voted for Biden, Joglekar feels "it's still going to take some time before we can actually get through the inflationary period that we're facing."

Results from independents showed a fifth believe that things will get better, about half thought the situation will get worse and over a quarter expect conditions to stay the same.

The poll conducted Sept. 12-14 interviewed 800 likely voters in Minnesota. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Likely voters in southern Minnesota were the most stressed about increased prices, with 41% labeling the issue a major problem and 44% finding it to be a minor stress. People in Hennepin and Ramsey counties showed less concern, with about a quarter citing major stress, slightly over half minor stress and about a fifth no stress.

"Some voters will think the inflation numbers are bad news and therefore we should attach the inflation numbers to the party in power," said Akshay Rao, a professor and expert in gas prices and cultural issues in marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

But Rao pointed out that other voters will say "inflation has been finally held at bay, inflation is a worldwide phenomenon, it's not something that the party in power has that much control over."