Poll: Shovel Ready

Assurances about job creation and environmental protections cause Minnesotans to embrace mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

A majority of Minnesotans statewide appear ready to embrace the prospect of developing their state’s mineral resources through expanded mining, especially when presented with information about the economic prospects for job creation and assurances about environment safeguards, according to the most recent Thinking Minnesota Poll, a quarterly research project underwritten by Center of the American Experiment.

The poll supplements the cover story of this month’s edition of the magazine, “Unearthing Prosperity” (page 20).

Meeting Street Research, a polling company based in Charleston, South Carolina, employed a mix of cellphone and landlines to interview 500 registered Minnesota voters between February 27-March 1, 2018. The margin of error for a sample size of N=500 is +4.38%.

Respondents statewide agree with the viewpoint that jobs and economic expansion overshadow environmental risks when it comes to mining (Figure 1). Fifty-one percent prioritize jobs (28 percent strongly), while 43 percent agree with environmentalists. Among these groups, Republicans exhibit stronger support for jobs than Democrats show for the environment (Figure 2). Of the 84 percent of base Republicans who side with jobs, 60 percent do so strongly. Of the 69 percent of Democrats who preferred the environment, just 42 percent do so strongly.

Minnesotans display strong nonpartisan agreement that Minnesota’s environmental regulations are the same as (32 percent) or stronger (30 percent) than other states’ (Figure 3). Only four percent of Minnesotans think the state’s regulations are less stringent. Thirty-three percent are unsure.

There is also broad bipartisanship regarding the importance of mining to Minnesota’s economy (92 percent) (Figure 4).

Voters show widespread support for potential copper, nickel, gold and platinum mining in northern Minnesota, with even more overwhelming support outside the Twin Cities (Figure 5). While support in the Twin Cities is split evenly at 43-43 percent, the rest of the state exhibits unmistakable support: suburbs (60-27 support), the northeast (61-33 percent), the south (57-34 support), and the west/northwest (60-18 support).

Perhaps most illuminating is the remarkable increase in support for mining when respondents were supplied with additional information (Figure 6). When asked whether they would support mining if they knew it could be carried out “without polluting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area,” support climbs from 54 percent to 64 percent, with “strongly favor” increasing from 23 percent to 32 percent. The support/opposed disparity for “mining without polluting” grows to a whopping 49 percent.

Most persuasive was the effect of economic messages. When informed that mining would add $3.7 billion to the economy and create 8,500 Minnesota jobs, respondents’ support for mining grew from 54 percent to 73 percent, with “strongly favor” almost doubling from 23 percent to 45 percent. The support/ opposed gap for “mining with added revenue/jobs” grew to a whopping 62 percent.