The poll

We introduce our new focus on public opinion.

With this issue of Thinking Minnesota, we debut an exciting new feature: the Thinking Minnesota Poll. The poll is a top-notch, professional product, conducted for American Experiment by Meeting Street Research. Each poll will sample 500 registered Minnesota voters, and will ask their opinions on a variety of topics. In polling, credibility is key. So, we are delighted to be working with Rob Autry, the founder of Meeting Street Research. Before founding Meeting Street, Rob spent 20 years as a partner in Public Opinion Strategies, the prestigious Washington, D.C. pollster.

Our plan is to conduct the survey while we are preparing each issue of Thinking Minnesota, and publish some of the results in the magazine. Each quarter, the poll will focus in large part on the subject that is the cover story in the magazine. The cover story in this issue is on alternatives to four-year college degrees, and our poll questions on this topic generated some interesting results. Such as: 71 percent of Minnesotans don’t believe a college degree is necessary to achieve the American dream. And an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans—88 percent—say apprenticeships and technical education are good investments for the money.

We used this month’s survey to test Minnesotans’ attitudes on other issues, as well. For example, we found that among Minnesotans who have an opinion, 72 percent favor abolishing the state’s estate tax. As the Center’s economist John Phelan writes in this issue, his recent study suggests that Minnesota could repeal its estate tax and probably not lose any net revenue. It might even gain more revenue, in the form of income and sales taxes paid by high net worth residents who otherwise are leaving the state. So, getting rid of the death tax, as it is popularly known, is both good policy and good politics. What is our legislature waiting for?

We also will use the Thinking Minnesota Poll to find out what issues Minnesotans think are most important; to see how many Minnesotans consider themselves conservative, liberal and moderate; to identify how attitudes vary by region and by age; and so on. Another function of the poll will be to test attitudes on an issue—wind energy, say—before the Center conducts a campaign, and then re-test after the campaign is concluded, to see whether we have moved the needle of public opinion.

Many polls focus almost exclusively on the horse race aspect of politics—approval ratings of politicians, who is ahead in a particular race, and so on. The Thinking Minnesota Poll will be different—and, we think, much more interesting—because it will focus on issues. Politicians come and go. Much more important, in the long term, is policy. And when it comes to public policy issues, it is generally the citizens who lead and the politicians who follow. We hope that our survey of public opinion in Minnesota will help to guide politicians, no matter which set may be in office at a given time.

And we intend to have some fun with the poll, too. One of these days, for example, I would love to do a poll on sports. What do Minnesotans think of our professional and college sports teams? Who are Minnesota’s favorite athletes? Which event gets more attention here, the NBA finals or the high school hockey tournament? And how about food? Am I the only one curious to know how many Minnesotans have actually ever eaten lutefisk? Thinking Minnesota has just gotten more interesting, more valuable, and more fun than ever. Watch for the Thinking Minnesota Poll in future issues, and prepare to be informed, entertained and, perhaps, surprised.