Poll: Lost in translation 

Minnesotans express discontent with the Democrat agenda and their futures; will politicians listen?

There is a persistent disconnect between the rosy picture of Minnesota painted by state leaders such as Gov. Tim Walz and the cold, hard data from respondents to this quarter’s Thinking Minnesota Poll. With the pandemic winding down in the fall of 2022, we began asking Minnesotans how they felt about Minnesota and if they believed their children would stay here to work and raise families. Back then, Minnesotans told us while they feel pretty good about the state themselves, fully 56 percent of them expect their children to be worse off than they are, while only 13 percent expect a more prosperous future for the next generation. We found similar results in May 2023 and again with our most recent polling in March of this year.  

Fifty-five percent of poll respondents believe their children’s generation will be worse off economically than they are today, remarkedly consistent with views expressed in 2022 and 2023.  

The poll was conducted by Meeting Street Insights, a nationally recognized polling operation based in Charleston, S.C. Using a mix of cellular and landline phones, the company interviewed 500 registered voters across Minnesota from March 11-13, 2024. The margin of error is +-4.38 percent.  

One could strongly suggest that previous pessimism was linked to the aftermath of COVID-19: unemployment, school closures, isolation, and public health fears. But as COVID fades from public policy view, dismay about the future persists — even worsens — signaling a deeper concern.  

Persistent pessimism  

One significant change from last year’s poll is how Minnesotans view their economic situation compared to their parents. Forty-six percent now say they are more pessimistic, a nine percent increase from 2023. Only one-third of Minnesotans believe they are better off economically than their parents’ generation.  

Young people are the least optimistic about the future. Sixty-two percent of men and 57 percent of women ages 18-54 believe they are worse off economically than their parents. This is hardly surprising considering how challenging it is right now to buy a home, pay off student loans, pay for childcare, and deal with the added costs of inflation and taxes.  

According to Rob Autry from Meeting Street Insights, the differences in optimism between generations are to be expected. “It’s entirely logical to see the older generation feeling optimistic about their own economic circumstance but pessimistic about the next generation.”  

Some of the initiatives emanating from the state Capitol this session are likely contributing to the deepening pessimism Minnesotans feel about the future, a consequence of the disconnect in priorities separating legislators and constituents. Turning Minnesota into a sanctuary state, raising the price of gasoline, lowering sentences for gun-toting criminals, and raising taxes are all very unpopular with our Thinking Minnesota Poll respondents.

Legislative disconnect  

The proposal to prohibit any Minnesota entity from cooperating with federal immigration authorities is opposed by 59 percent of respondents, with 47 percent saying they are “strongly opposed.” An even greater number of Minnesotans (69 percent) believe the federal government is not doing enough about illegal immigration and the crisis at the border.  

During the 2023 session, the Minnesota Legislature granted several new benefits to illegal immigrants, such as issuing state driver’s licenses, free health care, and free college tuition. Our poll numbers confirm that Minnesotans understand the burden our state will experience by becoming a sanctuary state and a magnet for immigrants from around the country and the world. The failures of sanctuary policies in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Denver are obviously not lost on our poll respondents in Minnesota. 

These numbers may also reflect the popularity of American Experiment’s campaign against this proposal. Our “No Sanctuary State” landing page has received 41,000 visitors, facilitating 18,600 emails sent to legislators against this legislation.  

Another proposal being considered in St. Paul this session is a bill to weaken the penalty for convicted felons possessing a firearm. According to bill author Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL – New Hope), the current mandatory minimum sentence of five years doesn’t keep people safe and clogs up the justice system because prosecutors can’t cut plea deals in these cases. According to our poll, 71 percent of Minnesotans disagree, with 57 percent strongly disagreeing.  

There is also significant pushback about various “green energy” proposals. Minnesotans fail to see the value proposition of paying more for a gallon of gas to support a complicated system of green credits to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel sector. The “Clean Transportation Standard,” or CTS, will make Minnesota’s mandates the most extreme and most expensive in the country, surpassing California, Oregon, and Washington, and raise the cost of gas in Minnesota by 39 to 45 cents per gallon.  

The Thinking Minnesota team worked hard to ask a question that strikes the right balance between environmental concerns and an increase in the gas tax, and our balanced question produced an unbalanced answer. Sixty-five percent of respondents oppose the new fuel emissions standards, with 51 percent strongly opposed. The only demographic group to support the standards were Democrats, who split 62 percent to 34 percent in favor. 

State of taxation  

Our poll respondents’ opposition to taxes is not limited to the gas tax. Fifty-nine percent of Minnesotans think income taxes are too high, with only two percent saying they are too low. Feelings about the income tax have not changed since we began asking this question in February 2021. This is a great example of the disconnect we often see in polling with issues that have strong consensus but are not vote-determinative in elections. In other words, Minnesotans think income taxes are too high but don’t vote that way, often putting leaders in place who have no interest in cutting taxes, instead prioritizing other issues in the voting booth.  

The final issue in our quarterly poll asked Minnesotans how they feel about the new state flag. We were surprised by the very low number of respondents who had no opinion on the redesigned flag. Clearly, Minnesotans are paying attention to this process: 52 percent tell us they prefer to keep the current flag and 16 percent prefer to go back to the drawing board and come up with a different design. Only 24 percent support using the new flag, which was designed by a committee empowered by the Legislature last year. The new flag will become official on May 11, 2024, unless the Legislature changes its mind, which is unlikely.  

One final item of note in this quarter’s poll is that suburbanites were more closely aligned with their friends in Greater Minnesota than respondents in the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. We’ll be watching this change in alignment in future Thinking Minnesota polls. 

About the pollster  

Rob Autry, founder of Meeting Street Insights, is one of the nation’s leading pollsters and research strategists.