5 reasons why Minnesota is a state to watch in the 2018 election

A voter cast a ballot at the Edina Senior Center.
A voter cast a ballot at the Edina Senior Center.
Chris Juhn for MPR News file

If you live in Minnesota's urban 5th Congressional District, it's likely that your neighbor is a millennial who likes to vote Democratic.

But if you hail from northeastern Minnesota's 8th District, your neighbors are probably baby boomers, and there's good chance they voted for both Republican President Trump and Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in 2016.

The APM Research Lab has created an easy-to-use tool that lets people explore the mounds of demographic and economic data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. The tool also collects results from the last election and breaks it down by Minnesota's eight districts in Congress, so it's easy to see how you and your neighbors compare to the other districts in the state.

Here are five ways Minnesota's districts in Congress stand out, and more you can learn from the new Representing Us tool.

1) Minnesota's 8th District was the closest House race in the state in 2016

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The northeastern Minnesota congressional district has become increasingly competitive in the last several election cycles, and 2016 was its closest race yet. Nolan beat challenger Stewart Mills III by only 0.06 percentage points. That was even more competitive than U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's race in the 1st District: He held onto his seat by 1.3 percentage points over Republican challenger Jim Hagedorn. It was also an outlier in the nation: Only one race, Pennsylvania's 18th District, came closer than Minnesota's 8th District, which helps explain why it's already a hot target in 2018.

2) Minnesota's 3rd District has the lowest unemployment rate in the state — and nation

In May, the nation's unemployment rate hit 3.8 percent, which is the lowest it's been in two decades. But zoom in on Minnesota's 3rd District, which includes Twin Cities suburbs to the north and west, and the unemployment rate is as low as 1.9 percent. That's by far the lowest in the state — Minnesota's 6th District comes in second at 2.2 percent — and it's also the lowest of any congressional district in the entire nation. Arkansas' 3rd District comes in second with 2 percent unemployment.

3) Minnesota's 5th District is full of millennials

On its face, this fact isn't exactly surprising. The 5th District is home to Minneapolis, the state's largest city and population center and certainly a draw for residents between the ages of 22 and 36 looking for the kind of amenities only an urban center can provide. But what might be surprising is that number stands out nationwide: the 5th District is sixth in the nation for number of millennials living within its borders.

4) Minnesota's 7th District went for Trump by 31 percentage points — and also elected a Democrat to Congress

The 7th District, which covers the entire Western border of the state, is rural and tends to vote Republican in presidential races. The 2016 election was no exception: Voters there went for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 31 percentage points. That's a remarkable margin, made even more remarkable by the fact that, at the same time, 7th District voters also re-elected Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson to a 14th term. In Minnesota, two other districts voted for Trump and also re-elected Democrats, but the margins for the president were the largest in Peterson's district. In fact, no other district in the nation swung as far for the president while also voting for a Democratic representative.

5) Minnesota's congressional districts are not very diverse

The state of Minnesota is 81 percent white, so already not exactly known for its diversity. But some districts are more diverse than others. For example, the 8th District is 92 percent white, the highest in the state and the 12th highest percentage of white residents in the nation. The 5th District is the most diverse in the state, with minorities making up 36 percent of the district's population.

You can dive deep on Minnesota demographic data, Minnesota voting data or take a national look with our partners at APM Research Lab.