Polling profile: Taconite Tim is moving to the political right

Thinking Minnesota magazine conducted our very first poll back in August 2018, asking national polling firm Meeting Street Insights to survey 500 Minnesotans with 25 questions about education, crime, and the economy. Since that time, 20 additional polls have been conducted asking hundreds of questions to 10,500 different Minnesotans around the state and across demographics. While brainstorming for our next project, the editors at Thinking Minnesota came up with a novel idea: What if instead of conducting another poll, we looked back at all the data acquired in the previous 21 polls and developed a snapshot of Minnesota?

The first step was to combine the data from these 21 polls into one massive file ready for analysis. Next, we used the data to create indices for the 10,500 Minnesotans who took our surveys over the years: who they are, their political affiliation, their perception of the economy, how much they trust the media, where they get their information, and how they feel about taxes, education, energy, crime, and social issues. Five distinct profiles of Minnesotans arose from the data, and we are pleased to present them here.

There are two important caveats to consider. First, purists in polling methodology will be quick to point out the inherent scientific flaws of combining surveys over a five-year period. We agree and advise readers to consume the data with this in mind.

While each individual survey had a margin of error of +/-4.38 percent, that can’t be said for the combined data file. Second, not all Minnesotans fit neatly into the five profiles showcased in this exercise. Winnowing down the profiles to just five was one of the toughest challenges of the entire project.

So, which one are you? Taconite Tim, MAGA Marv, Apathetic Andy, Subaru Suzy, or the Trade School Thompsons? For each profile, we had a little fun and made up a character representing that population.

Profile: Taconite Tim

Taconite Tim represents the people living on the Iron Range in Northeast Minnesota. Tim’s grandfather and father worked in the mines but there was no mining job for him, so he became an EMT and teaches at the high school. Tim likes to hunt, fish and snowmobile, and he calls tourists from the Twin Cities “612ers” or “citiots.”

We used a very strict (and small) definition of the Iron Range as we put together this profile. For example, it includes parts of St. Louis and Lake Counties but does not include Duluth or the North Shore cities.

The biggest takeaway from our analysis confirmed the recent trend of Iron Range voters becoming increasingly conservative.

Who they are

  • Older (most are ages 55+, 55%)
  • Do not have a college degree (70%)
  • Much more Republican (48%) than Democrat (33%) and Range Democrats are older, which explains the recent shift in voting patterns
  • More conservative (50%) compared to all Minnesota voters (35%) with only 17% liberal

How they feel

  • Pessimistic about the state’s direction and the Governor leading it; 54% say the state is on the wrong track (13 points higher than voters statewide) and Walz’s approval sits below fifty (46%, compared to 54% among all voters)
  • Worried about the future – 55% say their personal financial situation is only fair/poor), most say they are feeling the effects of inflation (54%), and many are concerned about utility bill costs (68%)
  • They distrust the media compared to Minnesota as a whole: 86% say MN media contributes to polarization (20 points higher than voters statewide); 82% say MN reporters misrepresent the facts (30 points higher than voters statewide); and only 30% say MN media is unbiased and fair in their reporting (20 points lower than voters statewide)

What they believe

  • More fiscally conservative as nearly a majority (45%) say 31% or more of state spending is wasteful, and eight in ten (82%) oppose a gas tax
  • More likely to give Minnesota’s public schools a lower grade (52% C/D/F, compared to 41% among all voters statewide)
  • A majority (55%) believe accountability should come before increased education funding (it’s 38% among voters statewide)
  • Trust parents over teachers and principals when it comes to curriculum (the opposite is true among voters statewide).

Socially conservative:

  • More likely to oppose woke education policies (55% oppose an ethnic studies requirement / 63% support a gender identity ban)
  • 93% oppose sex change operations for minors;
  • 85% oppose drivers licenses for illegals; and,80% oppose the new abortion law (51% identify as pro-life).
  • On energy, they’re generally opposed to Walz’s 2040 plan (36% support – 57% oppose).
  • On crime and safety, they feel Minneapolis was unsafe (38% safe – 57% unsafe) and favor stricter crime policies, particularly strengthening mandatory minimums (81% support)

To read the entire article as it appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Thinking Minnesota magazine, click here. This is the first of five posts about this polling project.