MPR News/Humphrey Institute poll: Voters poised for backlash against incumbents

The latest MPR News/Humphrey Institute poll finds likely Minnesota voters are angry and poised for a backlash against incumbents this fall.

The poll shows that unhappiness with national Democrats who control the White House and Congress is hurting Democrats and helping Republicans in Minnesota.

Pollsters interviewed 750 likely voters last Wednesday through Sunday. The poll has a +/-5.3 percentage point margin of sampling error.

University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs, who oversaw the poll, said the results show likely Minnesota voters are angry.

Poll Results

See more details of the MPR News/Humphrey Institute poll.

"The voters of Minnesota have very high blood pressure and they're furious," Jacobs said. "One of the main themes that comes out of this poll is we are seeing an extraordinary level of anger at Washington."

The indictment is sweeping, he said.

"Three-quarters of Minnesota voters are saying that they trust Washington never or only some of the time," Jacobs said. "Almost three-quarters disapprove of the job that Congress is doing. Six out of 10 think that the federal government has become too powerful, and we're seeing majorities also say that they disapprove of President Obama and his signature health reform."

Poll respondent Roger Meisner, a retired veterinarian who lives in Afton, is deeply troubled by the growing national debt. He said he can't stand President Obama.

"He probably has to be the worst president we've ever had," said Meisner, who is supporting Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor.

But Meisner's disdain for the political status quo is not limited to Democrats.

"Right now I wouldn't vote for any Republican or any Democrat or any incumbent," he said. "They're the cause of our problems as far as I can see."

Jacobs said there is a clear backlash against politicians in general, but that because Democrats control the White House and Congress they have the biggest problems right now.

"The 2006 and 2008 elections were very much a referendum on George Bush, the war in Iraq and how things were generally going in the country," he said. "The 2010 election seems to be shaping up as a referendum on Barack Obama and the Democrats in Washington. Now, in fairness, the Democrats and President Obama are being held responsible for some things that didn't really occur on their watch."

That includes the nation's financial meltdown, which was boiling over during Bush's final months in office.

But the poll shows programs pushed by the Obama administration are also hurting Democrats. A thin majority told pollsters they disapprove of the health care overhaul, and more than two-thirds said the economic stimulus had either no impact on the economy or made the economy worse.

Poll respondent Ronald Hofmann, a retired Lutheran pastor, is worried about the decreasing value of his Cottage Grove home. Hoffman, a Republican, thinks the government is spending too much money. He fears his grandchildren and great grandchildren will be struck with the bill for the stimulus, which he doesn't think created many jobs. He sees the nation as stuck in a bad place.

"Right now I don't think we're moving at all," Hoffman said. "We've reached a plateau and the financial people say we're going to take a dip. Other people say we're going to slowly make a move forward and I really don't know where we are," he said.

Even though a solid majority of poll respondents, or 59 percent, said they thought the federal government has too much power, nearly three out of four said they thought Social Security and Medicare were worth the cost to taxpayers.

And more than two-thirds said they would support either higher income taxes on relatively high earners, or taxing clothing sales rather than cutting core government services to balance the state budget.

"There are these competing themes of both support for ongoing government programs and a willingness to increase taxes to pay for them, and a more general abstract, philosophical vent of saying, 'hey, we should be able to get by with a smaller government,' " Jacobs said.

The poll also shows that while the tea party has been a big player within Republican Party politics, there's a backlash from other voters against candidates associated with it. Tea party hero Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, endorsed Tom Emmer, arguably helping him secure the GOP endorsement. That could hurt Emmer in the general election.

But Democrats may not want President Obama to come to Minnesota and campaign for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton.

According to the poll, Obama's endorsement would hurt Dayton more than help him.