For Minnesotans, “It’s the economy, stupid”

“The economy, stupid”, was famously one of the three talking points in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign back in 1992. Elections aren’t always focused on the economy, but Minnesota’s 2018 gubernatorial election looks like it will be.

According to a poll in the Star Tribune today, Nearly two out of five of the Minnesotans polled said “jobs and the economy” would be their top issue.

Taken together, jobs and the economy and health care were the most important issues for 62 percent of Minnesotans, according to the poll, framing the upcoming election as one largely about economic and health care security.

Taxation is the most important issue to 12 percent of Minnesotans, while immigration is the top concern of 6 percent, according to the poll.

One-in-five respondents said a different issue is most important or said they aren’t sure.

Jobs and the economy are most important in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the suburbs and greater Minnesota, among men and women, upper and lower income and younger and older residents.

Only DFL voters, potentially reeling from recent Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, gave a slight edge to health care.

The message of our recent report, The State of Minnesota’s Economy: 2017, is that Minnesota’s economy could be doing better. The fact that “jobs and the economy” are their primary concerns at the ballot box indicates that Minnesotans agree.

Since at least 2000, our state’s economic growth has lagged the national average. In 2016, our economy was 2.5% smaller than it would have been if we had matched the national growth rate. True, we have low unemployment rates, but, since at least 2000, job growth in Minnesota has been concentrated in lower productivity sectors.

Minnesota is in nothing like the mess that Illinois is in. The Twin Cities are in far better shape than, say, Chicago or Detroit. This reflects the significant economic advantages we have here, such as a diverse economy and industrious, educated workforce. But we at the Center feel that we could make batter use of these advantages. It seems that Minnesotans agree.

John Phelan is an economist at Center of the American Experiment.