Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains a steady lead over President Donald Trump in Minnesota, propelled by strong support among women and younger voters, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll.
The poll found the Democratic challenger leading 48% to 42% over the Republican incumbent among likely Minnesota voters. Another 8% were undecided, while three third-party candidates together totaled 2%.
Biden’s six-point lead in a potential swing state comes less than six weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 election, showing little change from the Democrat’s 49% to 44% advantage in the last Minnesota Poll in May, before the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed.
The new Minnesota Poll, taken Sept. 21-23, was conducted in the days following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, prompting a partisan battle to fill her vacancy on the high court.
The poll found Biden’s advantage largely driven by a 48-point lead over Trump in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the state’s two most highly populated. Trump held significant leads over Biden in northern and southern Minnesota in the poll, and a smaller edge in the other counties of the Twin Cities area.
The survey of 800 likely Minnesota voters has a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points.
Trump and Biden have targeted Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes in a bitterly fought presidential race overshadowed by a national debate over policing and race sparked by Floyd’s death. Both campaigned in Minnesota this month as early voting got underway, made major advertising buys and dispatched high-profile surrogates as Trump seeks to expand the electoral map against Biden’s persistent lead in national and swing-state polls.
The poll found some support for Biden among disaffected liberals.
“I did not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this year, enough’s enough, man. Donald Trump has got to go,” said Jesse Cromley, a 31-year-old marketer from Minneapolis who responded to the poll.
A Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter who protested Trump in downtown Minneapolis in 2019 and took to the streets again after Floyd’s death, Cromley said he long ago made peace with voting for Biden, whose politics are more centrist than his own.
“After four years, I’d rather have anyone in the White House but Trump,” Cromley said.
While Biden enjoyed a large lead among voters under 35, the two candidates were much closer in three other age groups: Biden had a 1-point lead among voters 35-49, while Trump had a 2-point lead with voters 50-64 and a 3-point lead with those over 65.
Donny Smith, who lives outside the southern Minnesota town of Blooming Prairie, said he backed Trump in the poll because he likes his leadership on the economy.
“Now we’ve got the coronavirus, so this may sound silly, but the economy has been good,” said Smith, who designs and builds fiber optic networks. “The numbers say unemployment is high, but for us it’s still difficult to hire. There’s a lot of noise on both sides, but you have to tune it out and see how it really is in relation to your own concerns.”
Smith, 63, said he voted for Trump in 2016 but for Barack Obama in the election before that. “I don’t mind Biden, this isn’t so much a vote against him,” he said. He also said that he might have voted for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar if she had won the Democratic nomination.
Among Biden supporters, the largest percentage cited “racial justice and equity” as most influential in driving their vote. Few if any Trump voters named that as their top concern.
Biden voters also cited the coronavirus, health care, and climate change as top concerns. Trump voters expressed more concern about the economy and jobs, law and order and crime. The poll also found many voters influenced by the battle over Trump’s election-year Supreme Court appointment: Some 16% of Trump voters listed it as their top concern, as did 13% of Biden voters.
Overall, the poll found that the economy is a major issue for likely Minnesota voters, with 23% listing it as their top concern. The next-biggest issue was racial justice and equity, which 15% listed as their top concern. But while 20% of Biden voters rated the pandemic as the most important issue in the election, only 1% of Trump voters agreed.
Smith said he does not blame Trump for the U.S.’s high death toll. “Did he downplay it a little? Maybe,” he said. “But he didn’t want everybody going into a panic. It sounds cold, but a certain number of people are going to die every year and if it’s not from one thing it’s from another.”
The poll showed Biden with a large lead among college graduates, and Trump with a small lead among voters with no college degree. Biden had a large lead with nonwhite voters, and a much narrower, 3-point lead with white voters — a group that helped Trump come within 1.5 percentage points of winning Minnesota in 2016.
Biden’s key source of backing in the Minnesota Poll may be women. While men backed Trump by 4 points in the poll, Biden held a 16-point lead with women.
“I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I never liked Donald Trump, even before he entered politics,” said Teresa Olson, a 65-year-old semiretired machinery operator.
Olson lives in the small northwestern Minnesota town of Hawley, between Moorhead and Detroit Lakes. The poll found Trump with his biggest lead in northern Minnesota — 54% to 36% — and a similar lead of 53% to 36% in southern Minnesota. Trump is popular in her area, Olson said, and she’s learned to mostly avoid political conversations.
For Ronald Johnson, a retired farmer and professor from Excelsior who was polled, Biden is “a two-faced politician and lawyer” who’s “used to taking either side in any political situation.” Johnson, 84, said he got on board with Trump back in February of 2016 as he was competing for the GOP nomination.
“We were at the Republican caucus and this guy for Trump comes up to us with a one-pager with four bullet points of things that he is going to do. And he’s done them,” Johnson said. Trump “drives everybody crazy because he kind of thinks out loud,” he said, adding that he believes many voters just aren’t used to having a businessman as president.
“Everything is transactional-oriented, you’re trying to maneuver something,” Johnson said. “You tell a fib somewhere, so what? You’re trying to do a deal.”
In all, 43% of Minnesota Poll respondents, including Johnson, approve of Trump’s job performance. But a majority — 52% — said they disapprove. That is largely unchanged from the May poll, when Trump stood at 45% approval and 53% disapproval. But both 2020 polls show an significant bend from a year ago, when 40% of Minnesota Poll respondents approved of the president’s job performance, compared with 56% who did not — his highest unfavorable rating in Minnesota since taking office.