Should Minnesota be Considered a Swing State?

Most of this year’s political attention will be focused on the presidential election’s top tier states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, but a second-tier domain could also become a political player, at least according to a new poll.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, surveying for the Star Tribune newspaper, along with Minnesota Public Radio and KARE Television Channel 11 (5/18-20; 800 MN registered voters) finds former Vice President Joe Biden, as expected, leading President Donald Trump. The margin between the two contenders, however, is a relatively close 49-44 percent.

Minnesota has been the most loyal domain for Democratic presidential nominees. The last time the state’s electorate voted Republican for the nation’s top office occurred all the way back in 1972 when President Richard Nixon carried the North Star State over then-Sen. George McGovern (D-SD). In 1984, President Ronald Reagan came close to beating former Vice President and ex-Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale but fell 3,761 votes short. The next closest Republican finisher was President Trump in 2016, losing in a 1.5 percentage point spread.

The Trump campaign has already said publicly they plan to make Minnesota a target, along with New Hampshire – another Hillary Clinton state that was close (46.8 - 46.5%) – a result that would give Trump a huge boost if he were to convert any state that went against him four years ago.

The Mason-Dixon Minnesota poll divides in stark fashion. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area, specifically noted as Hennepin and Ramsey counties in this survey, breaks for Biden, 62-29%. The rest of the metro area, defined as the Twin Cities’ outer suburbs, posts a much closer 48-44% Biden edge.

Northern Minnesota, which contains most of Congressional Districts 7 (Rep. Collin Peterson-D) and 8 (Rep. Pete Stauber*-R), favors President Trump, 56-38%, while southern Minnesota, which is basically the 1st Congressional District (Rep. Jim Hagedorn-R) and part of the 2nd (Rep. Angie Craig-D), divides between the two candidates in similar fashion to the north, 57-39% Trump.

The party breakdown is even more defined and polarized than we usually see. Both parties’ self-identified respondents give their candidate a whopping 95-2% edge, while the Independents are virtually even, 42-41%, with the President enjoying the slightest of edges. A large gender gap is also detected. Women choose Mr. Biden in a 59-35% clip, while men opt for Mr. Trump with a 54-37% split.

Looking at the poll analysis, it appears the margin may even be closer than the ballot test suggests. The sampling universe has various skews, most of which, but not all, appear to favor Mr. Biden.

While we see women preferring Biden, 59-35%, the sampling universe features more women than does the Minnesota population as a whole. Among survey respondents, 53% are female but maintain only 50.5% of the state population according to the latest available census data.

The education level differences are much more pronounced within the polling universe than the general population. Keeping in mind that college graduates (Bachelor’s degree or higher) break for Biden, 54-35%, the polling universe features a higher educated composition factor of 47%, far beyond the 35% found in the Minnesota census data.

Conversely, those identified as 65 years of age and older encompasses 15.9% of the state population but 23% of the sampling group. This segment favors President Trump, 52-41%, which certainly boosts the Republican’s poll standing.

Minnesota, with its 10 electoral votes, becomes a must-win state for Mr. Biden. Should President Trump hold his five core states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, he could theoretically lose Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin should he win Minnesota. Trading Minnesota for Wisconsin, explaining deeper, would allow the President to win re-election even if he were to lose all of the other aforementioned swing states that touch one of the Great Lakes.

* denotes that the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution this election cycle.

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