Thinking Minnesota Poll: Uncertainty, pessimism, malaise

Respondents in the latest Thinking Minnesota Poll have traded their normally sunny disposition for feelings of uncertainty and concern about the future of Minnesota and the nation. Minnesotans are particularly pessimistic about prospects for their children as a stunning 56 percent expect their children to be worse off than they are, while only 13 percent expect a more prosperous future for the next generation. The poll also revealed a loss of trust in state and federal institutions and growing uncertainty over inflation and state elections.

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 August 8-10, 2022. The margin of error is +-4.38 percent.

“On the eve of the midterm elections, Minnesotans are pessimistic about the future, hurting because of the rising cost of living, and have largely lost confidence in many of our state and national institutions,” said pollster Rob Autry, President of Meeting Street Insights.

For a broad perspective, Minnesotans were asked about their confidence in the future of their country on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being most optimistic and one being least optimistic. Only 15 percent of respondents placed their optimism in the 8 to 10 range, compared with 35 percent who rated their confidence at only 1 to 3. The mean answer was only 4.7. Those results are a far cry from the optimism that has typified American history.

Voters expressed more optimism about their state than the country as a whole. Asked the same question about Minnesota’s future, 34 percent of respondents rated their optimism 8 through 10, while 24 percent rated it 1 through 3. The mean answer was 5.8.

But when asked the question, “Do you think that your children or the next generation will be better off than your generation economically, worse off than your generation economically, or will they be about the same?” responses revealed an underlying pessimism not historically common among Minnesotans. A stunning 56 percent of Minnesotans expect their children to be worse off than they are, while only 13 percent expect a more prosperous future for the next generation.

“This survey highlights the fact that Minnesotans are feeling the squeeze of inflation,” added Autry. “Not only is it affecting their month-to-month finances, but they are increasingly pessimistic about the type of economy they’re passing onto their children.”

Sixty percent say they have put less money into savings, a reality that is especially worrisome for would-be first-time home buyers, generally younger Minnesotans and those with families. Fifty-three percent have delayed a major purchase like a new car or appliance, while 53 percent have cut back on groceries and 52 percent are driving less than they used to. Forty-four percent say they have canceled or delayed a vacation, and 36 percent have looked for additional work or other sources of income. For Minnesota’s families, the rising cost of living is an ever-present reality that contributes to the anxiety seen in these poll results.

Along with economic concerns, the Thinking Minnesota Poll finds a worrisome and uncharacteristic loss of confidence in state and national institutions. Minnesota’s colleges and universities score the best, with 58 percent expressing either a great deal of confidence, or quite a bit of confidence, in them. Meanwhile, 40 percent say they have not much confidence, or no confidence at all, in the state’s higher education institutions.

Local institutions are next in the confidence rankings, but with mediocre scores. City councils are slightly positive at 53 percent confidence and 46 percent lack of confidence, but school boards are under water at 47 percent confident, 51 percent not confident.

Minnesotans lack confidence in their state’s judicial system, too, with only 46 percent expressing a great deal or quite a bit of confidence, while 50 percent say they have not much or no confidence in our courts.

“Our court system is held in low esteem because of their seeming unwillingness to sentence violent criminals to meaningful prison terms,” said John Hinderaker, President of Center of the American Experiment. “Minnesotans from across the state are feeling the consequences of rising violence, and data show this is due mostly to repeat offenders.”

When it comes to federal regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Trade Commission, the results reflect a disastrous loss of confidence. Only 37 percent expressed confidence in these regulatory agencies, while a large majority, 62 percent, said they have little or no confidence in them.

After two years of the COVID epidemic, Minnesotans have lost confidence in the public health establishment. Only 36 percent expressed confidence in America’s public health establishment, while 62 percent said they have little or no confidence, a “brutal result for a group of purported experts who have been in the spotlight since 2020,” added Hinderaker.

With the disastrous Southwest Light Rail project top of mind for respondents, the Metropolitan Council had the lowest ratings in the poll with a 26 percent confident/62 percent not confident split.

Lastly, respondents were asked how much confidence they have in the integrity of elections in Minnesota. Most Minnesotans express a lot of confidence (42 percent) or quite a bit of confidence (23 percent). But a substantial minority, 35 percent, say they have not much, or no confidence in Minnesota’s election integrity.

“It’s hard to dismiss the concerns of 35% of Minnesotans when it comes to confidence in our elections,” said Hinderaker.

Full results of the poll with graphics can be found here.