Editor’s note: This is the first in a series MinnPost plans to publish this week on the Embold Research poll.
Although the race for Minnesota governor remains close, incumbent Tim Walz has gained a slight lead over Scott Jensen according to the MinnPost/Embold Research poll.
47% preferred the DFLer, while 42% preferred Jensen. The support for the four other candidates was 5%. 5% were undecided, 1% said that they wouldn’t vote and 5% remained undecided.
The margin of error for the poll of 1,585 Minnesota voters between October 10 and 14 was +/- 2.6 percentage points. This puts Walz’s advantage within this window. Walz was supported by 42% of respondents, while Jensen was supported by 40%.
Women voters are overwhelmingly in favor of the DFL nominee, with 55% leading to 33%. Jensen is 52% ahead of 39% among men. Walz holds a slight numerical advantage in all age groups, but his biggest advantage is among young voters (those between 18 and 34), where he has 43% – 32% lead.
The poll results show that geography is a significant divider, although some of this was expected. Walz leads in the Twin Cities by 37 points, Jensen is ahead in the seven-county metro areas outside of the largest cities. Jensen leads in Greater Minnesota by 19 points. Comparable to June’s poll, Walz has seen his advantage grow in cities while Jensen has seen his advantage shrink in the suburbs. The sample size is less than the total population polled, so the margins for error are larger in subregions. This poll’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points in cities, plus/minus 7 percentage point in metro areas excluding Minneapolis and St. Paul, and plus/minus 4 percentage point in Greater Minnesota.
Referendum of sorts about the job of the incumbent, which usually doesn’t suffer from a lack familiarity with voters, begins a reelection campaign. Only 1% of the surveyed voters had never heard of Walz (the former U.S. Congressman from Mankato). This doesn’t always translate to favorability.
From 46% of those polled Walz received very favorable or somewhat positive grades, while 48% viewed him negatively. However, 40% of those who considered him unfavorable placed him in the “very unfavorable” category.
span style=”font weight: 400 It is not uncommon, especially in a State like Minnesota where there are a lot of polarized electorates,” Ben Greenfield, a pollster, said about the depth of emotions. Walz is “very polarized in terms people’s political orientations.” If we polled (Gov. Tony) Evers in Wisconsin would get the exact same results .”
Jensen’s good news is that voters have become more familiar with him since June’s MinnPost/Embold Research survey. This is both due to his campaign and the negative ads that were run against him by Walz and DFL allies. In June, 23% of respondents had a positive view of the former senator while 19% had a negative view. However, 44% of those surveyed had never heard of the candidate that had just won the endorsement from the state GOP.
Now, however, while Jensen is known by all but 9% of those who took part in the poll, his ratio of favorable-to-unfavorable responses has reversed. 37% of respondents said that they felt very favorable or somewhat favorable about Jensen, and 44% said that they were somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, towards him.
The poll results are a guideline. Former President Donald Trump received 57% to 57%, while President Joe Biden was 41% favorable/51% unfavorable).
A sense of optimism among voters is more likely to affect incumbents. Respondents were asked if they believed Minnesota was heading in the right direction or the wrong. 46% answered “right direction”, 54% replied “wrong track”, a net negative 8 points. In June, 59% of respondents said “wrong path span>
This question was asked about the entire nation, not just Minnesota. It revealed that only 28% of respondents said “right direction”, while 72% stated “wrong track”, a net negative 44 points.
A plurality feeling that a nation or state is heading in the wrong direction can help predict an election where incumbents won’t win. A two-point difference in opinion is not as significant as a predictor. Charlie Cook from the national Cook Political Report noted recently that voters felt more inclined to vote “wrong” between 1980 and 2016, but that the level of their negativity was a factor. The average net negativity, which is the difference between people saying the right direction or wrong track, was 46% in the five elections that saw a party lose the White House. The average net negative number for a party that held control was 8 %.
Greenfield stated that there is an unusual environment for this question right now. Voters who are still willing to vote for Biden or any other Democrats give him unfavorable reviews. Trump’s supporters were rarely unfavorable to him when he was president.
A poll asked voters to rate Walz’s job performance as an office holder. This term began with a strong economy, a surplus state budget, but then experienced a global pandemic and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer, along with the protests, violence, and emotional jury trials that followed. This question is different from the one asking whether they regard some positively or negatively.
“Typically, favorability is more about someone’s personal feelings about a candidate, while approval is only about the job they are doing,” Greenfield stated.
He said that approval numbers are usually higher than favorability. The differences in Walz’s situation are very small.
Overall, half of those surveyed approve and half disapprove the job done by the incumbent as governor. His report card on four areas is mixed. His report card is mixed on four areas: jobs, which is a question that gauges his economic work, 53% approve and 47% disagree; the pandemic, 51% approve, and 49% disapprove. Crime, 42% approve, and 58% disapprove. Education, 5o% approve, and 50% disapprove.
All numbers show slight improvements over June poll results
With three weeks until Election Day, the number of undecided voters for governor is 6%. However, the poll shows that Jensen has more chance than Walz among these voters. Only 33% of those voters report that they approve of the incumbent’s job performance, while 67% do not.
MinnPost will explore more of how voters view issues. This includes how they see them and what they think is important. The poll does show which issues are driving support to Walz and Jensen.
Voters who support Walz say that the most important issue is abortion. This was mainly due to the June U.S. Supreme Court decision that reversed a ruling that abortion was a fundamental human right that could not be limited by the states. The insurrection at U.S. Capitol followed by climate change, and then inflation.
Inflation is the number one issue for Jensen voters. It is followed closely by crime, taxes, and critical race theory.
Some evidence suggests that both pro-abortion rights voters and abortion opponents are among those who believe abortion is a top issue. This is not supported by the MinnPost/Embold Research survey. The poll found that 76% of those who listed abortion among their top four issues, and 66% of those polled said they voted in favor Trump.
Another sign that abortion is an issue for abortion rights supporters is that 79% of those who identified it as a top concern had reported that they are Democrats, 7% were Republicans, and 33% were independents.
“This is consistent with other poll results,” Greenfield stated. He said that when they gave people an open-ended prompt, almost all of those who mentioned abortion were Democratic leaners voting for Walz. The absence of Republican voters citing abortion as a top concern is consistent with other polls.
“Font-weight: 400 There is no base of Republican voters that is motivated by the Dobbs victory,” Greenfield stated. It’s not something they are thinking about. They vote on inflation, crime, and immigration.
Jensen is the challenger and has a less impressive record. The MinnPost/Embold Research poll didn’t ask voters to rate his performance in specific areas like it did for Walz.
The poll was taken between Oct. 10 and Oct. 14. It included 1,585 likely voters in general elections. The poll was conducted in collaboration with Embold Research, a nonpartisan arm of Change Research. Respondents are recruited via targeted ads on social media and websites. FiveThirtyEight rates Change Research as a B- Pollster.
Embold Research employs a “modeled” margin to error. This allows for the effects of weighting or making adjustments to better reflect state demographics. The results were weighted based on gender, age, race/ethnicity and region as well as the 2020 presidential vote.
Greta Kaul, associate editor, contributed to this article.