Poll: Minnesotans divided over Biden's job performance

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WASHINGTON – Minnesota voters are intensely divided over Joe Biden's job performance less than a year into the Democrat's presidency, according to a new Minnesota Poll.

Slightly over half disapprove of Biden's work as president, 47% approve and 2% are not sure. The poll of 800 registered voters, conducted Sept. 13-15, was sponsored by the Star Tribune, MPR News, KARE 11 and FRONTLINE.

Biden won Minnesota by around 7 percentage points last November on his way to defeating Republican President Donald Trump in a contentious White House campaign during the coronavirus pandemic. But since taking office two weeks after the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Biden has had to contend with a narrow Democratic majority in Congress and guiding the United States through the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

"The amount of executive orders that he did was ridiculous," said Patricia Gilbert, a 61-year-old Trump voter in Bemidji who disapproves of Biden. Gilbert said she's concerned that Biden is a "puppet" and said she feels the national 2020 presidential contest was "a rather corrupt election."

That view is pervasive among some Trump voters who embrace the former president's baseless claims about the election being stolen, claims that the campaign knew were erroneous in the days after the election, according to a memo that came to light in a lawsuit against the campaign and others by a former employee of Dominion, a voting machine company.

Men overwhelmingly are not satisfied with the president, with 70% disapproving of his job performance and 28% approving. Biden fared far better with female voters, where 64% approved and 34% disapproved. "The gap in support between men and women for Biden is particularly large," said Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota political science professor. "But the direction is consistent with the gender gap that scholars have observed since 1980."

The findings come at a pivotal time for the president. After the nation saw progress against the coronavirus earlier this year, the rise of the delta variant and renewed concerns about the pandemic resulted in Biden taking federal action earlier this month that included new requirements.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., surveyed 800 registered voters in Minnesota by cellphone and landline. The margin of sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

While Biden's standing remained high with Democrats, 93% of whom said they approve of Biden's work in the White House, 95% of Republicans disapproved. Biden also struggled with voters who identify as Independent/Other, with 62% voicing disapproval compared with 34% approval. Biden fared better with younger Minnesotans, with 62% of voters 18 to 34 years old approving of the president while 37% disapproved. Voters in other age brackets showed higher negative ratings for the president.

Back in March, Biden appeared to score an early legislative victory as he signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law that included billions of dollars for Minnesota. But last month, the United States' chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan became a major crisis for the administration.

Congress is struggling over a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure backed by Biden that passed the Senate but has yet to clear the House. The president is also facing major political challenges over a separate $3.5 trillion spending package that Republicans oppose and could be derailed by turmoil among Democrats. The failure of either goal could be a major setback for Biden's presidency, as well as Democrats' chances at keeping control of the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Biden has approval of 69% of voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but his approval was far lower in other parts of the state. In the metro suburbs, 38% approved and 61% disapproved of Biden's job performance. Those marks dipped even further for the president in northern Minnesota, where 35% approved and 64% disapproved. In southern Minnesota, only a third of voters said they approved of Biden's job performance.

For Mary Jo Schaak, her support came with the belief that Biden "picked up some no-win situations." The 69-year-old Democrat, a retired nurse in St. Paul who voted for Biden, said that "if we had handled the COVID correctly when it first came out, we would not be in the mess that we're in."

"The denial by the previous president did not help the situation any," she said, referring to Trump. Schaak, who has worked as an election judge, also pointed to "the total mess in Afghanistan" as another challenge that Biden inherited.

"After 20 years, somebody had to pull out," she said. "So somebody needed to be the bad guy. And I think he's gotten unfavorable press because of that. Actually, we should have pulled out a long time ago."

Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559

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