The latest Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll, released this week, examined the views of Minnesota voters on the 2020 presidential and U.S. Senate races, Gov. Tim Walz, the COVID-19 pandemic, race and policing. Let’s take a closer look at some of the findings.
First, to review: 800 registered Minnesota voters who indicated they were likely to vote in the November elections were interviewed between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23. The poll’s margin of sampling error was ± 3.5 percentage points. Margins of error for any subgroups within the sample will be higher, so it is best to speak in broad strokes. More information about the poll's methodology, a demographic breakdown of the respondents and a map of the poll regions can be found on the results page for each story.
Biden made gains with men, but more women are undecided
The poll found former Vice President Joe Biden holds a six-point lead over President Trump, with 8% of voters undecided — and the race has remained pretty stable since the last statewide Minnesota Poll in May 2020, when Biden led by five points. The May poll was conducted in the week that preceded the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the protests and rioting that followed.
But the new poll did show some movement, most notably in the gender gap, which narrowed considerably. In May, just 37% of men said they supported Biden, compared with 59% of women, a 22-point gender gap. Meanwhile, 54% of men backed Trump, as did 35% of women, a 24-point gap.
Interestingly, some men shifted toward Biden while some women moved away from him: 44% of men and 52% of women favored Biden in September, a gap of eight points, while 48% of men and 36% of women picked Trump, a 12-point gap.
Keeping in mind that margins of error are higher for subgroups, a deeper dive into the responses reveals that between May and September, Biden gained some ground with men in the state’s largest population center of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which include a number of suburban cities in addition to Minneapolis and St. Paul. But in every other region of the state, the percentage of women who said they were undecided in the new poll grew.
Smith is outperforming Biden in southern Minnesota
Both Biden and U.S. Sen Tina Smith are running up huge margins in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the poll found. But while Biden is trailing Trump in the rest of the state, Smith is within the margin of error of her GOP challenger, former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, in southern Minnesota.
The close split could reflect Smith's presence in the region throughout her career. As lieutenant governor, Smith worked closely on the development of the Destination Medical Center in Rochester. In the U.S. Senate, she sits on the Agriculture Committee, where she has made a point of highlighting issues impacting farmers across the region. She and Lewis have tangled over agriculture policy, including farm subsidies, during the campaign.
In one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country, Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn in the First Congressional District is facing a tough rematch with DFL Army veteran Dan Feehan, whom Hagedorn defeated by just 1,315 votes in 2018. Hagedorn has recently faced questions over his office’s spending on constituent mail and printing contracts awarded to companies tied to his staffers, so it’s possible that ticket-splitting by a substantial number of southern Minnesota voters could imperil Hagedorn’s chances of holding on to his seat.
Trump appears to have lost some standing with Republicans
While a whopping 95% of Republicans said they would vote for Trump back in May, that number fell to 81% in September. Meanwhile, Trump’s job approval among Republicans slid by the same margin.
It’s unclear what’s behind this shift, but Trump likely needs all the support he can get from his Republican base if he’s going to have a shot at winning Minnesota in November.
Walz’s support slid in the outer metro and northern Minnesota
After the May poll found his approval rating had spiked, Gov. Tim Walz’s job approval has more or less returned to where it was in February, before the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Minnesota.
Since May, Walz’s support remains unchanged in Hennepin and Ramsey counties and his home turf of southern Minnesota, but it fell in northern Minnesota and the “rest of metro” region, which is comprised of nine counties that encircle Hennepin and Ramsey. See a map of the poll regions at the end of each results page.
While Walz enjoys strong approval overall, about one in three likely Minnesota voters said they disapprove of his performance, a new high.
Trump voters are less likely to get vaccinated
Perhaps one of the September poll’s more surprising findings, only about half of Minnesotans say they will immediately get vaccinated if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available with government approval and support from scientists, while 43% said they would not immediately get vaccinated.
On this question, Biden voters and Trump supporters were nearly upside-down from each other. Six in 10 Biden voters said they would be vaccinated, while 31% said they would not. Meanwhile, 38% of Trump voters said they would, and half would not. Only about one in four Biden voters said they were “not too worried” or “not at all worried” about becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus, compared with more than seven in 10 Trump voters.
Also noteworthy: In September, two in three Minnesotans said they personally knew someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, a sharp increase from May, when just 35% said the same. That ratio was remarkably consistent across demographic groups in the September poll, with one clear outlier: Only 55% of Trump voters said they knew someone who tested positive.
More white Minnesotans say racial inequality is real
In April 2016, months after the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers, just three in 10 white voters said they think the criminal justice system does not treat Black people and white people equally. In September, a majority of white voters said the same.
A larger percentage of white Minnesotans also now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement: Just 24% said so in April 2016, compared with four in 10 in the latest poll.
Politics and government reporter Torey Van Oot and data visuals editor C.J. Sinner contributed to this article.