Another Close Minnesota Poll

If there is a sleeper state lurking in the 2024 presidential election that could render a surprise vote on election night, it may prove to be the place known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, or more commonly referred to as Minnesota.

While the presidential map appears locked with only seven or eight states seriously in play, Minnesota, one of the states never placed in the swing category because of its strongly Democratic voting history, continues to return surprisingly close 2024 polling numbers. Should we continue to see two to three point spreads in ballot test results, Minnesota’s political projection status may soon change.

The latest research release comes from Survey USA for ABC affiliate KSTP-TV Channel 5 in St. Paul (4/3-7; 608 MN likely general election voters; online). The results project President Joe Biden holding only a 44-42% lead over Donald Trump with 11% saying they would support another candidate.

This poll is not an anomaly. In fact, it is highly consistent with four other independent Minnesota surveys conducted in October, November, January, and February. In each of these five studies (three from Survey USA, and one each from MinnPost and Emerson College) the Biden-Trump range during the six month period spanned between just two and four percentage points with the President leading in each survey.

Minnesota has been the most consistently Democratic state in modern era presidential elections. The last time the electorate chose a Republican candidate was when Richard Nixon successfully ran for re-election in 1972.

Since the turn of the century, the country has hosted six presidential elections, and Minnesota has remained consistently in the Democratic column. Despite the state’s Democratic loyalty factor, the average percentage obtained for both parties during this period is much closer than one might expect. This suggests that Minnesota is actually more competitive than the reliable Democratic electoral vote cache that its final results have delivered.

In the last six elections, Democratic presidential nominees Al Gore (2000), John Kerry (2004), Barack Obama (2008, 2012), Hillary Clinton (2016), and Joe Biden (2020) recorded an average vote percentage of only 50.8%, with a high of 54.1 (Obama, 2008) with a low vote of 45.4 (Clinton, 2016). Yet, the party nominees carried the state all six times.

Conversely, the Republican average in those same elections was 45.4 with a high of 47.6 (Bush, 2004), and a low of 43.8 (McCain, 2008). Therefore, despite the Republicans not winning here in any of these elections, the margin spread between the two parties is consistently rather close. Thus, the idea that the Minnesota electorate could be within a small single digit margin, as these multiple 2024 election polls have indicated, is well within the realm of possibility.

Another reason the state could become a factor in the upcoming election is the Minnesota electorate has demonstrated above average historical support for independent or minor party candidates. The most famous such vote was in 1998 when retired professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected Governor on the Reform Party ballot line.

In the presidential election of 1992 (Bush-Clinton-Perot) when the independent/minor party lines captured a cumulative 19.5% of the national vote, Ross Perot’s Minnesota total reached 24% of the cast ballots. In the six presidential elections of this century, Minnesota vote totals for non-Democratic and Republican candidates exceeded the commensurate national vote percentage every time from a range of 0.3 all the way to just under a full 3 percent spread.

Therefore, with the consistent closeness of the early polling and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in particular likely to draw a greater vote share in this state than he will nationally, we could see the unexpected development of this reliable Democratic state potentially falling into the toss-up category. And, if the Kennedy vote is large enough, Minnesota might well find itself on the cusp of voting for Donald Trump. 

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