Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa have voted Democrat in the last four presidential races, and a pitched competition for the Upper Midwest has been in the making for some time.
Humphrey Survey: The Upper Midwest battleground
The Upper Midwest battleground
Originally published on July 22, 2003
Editor's note: In late July at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the U's Center for the Study of Politics released results of the first survey of the 2004 presidential campaign in the Upper Midwest--in this survey, the states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
What follows is the first two pages of the survey--a summary. To read the entire survey, go to the Center for the Study of Politics and see Public Opinion. The story "Midwest Poll" from the fall 2004 issue of M was excerpted from the following.
After largely ignoring the Upper Midwest in his 2000 campaign, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are showering attention on Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. While any of these states can tip a deadlocked election, the region's 27 Electoral College votes is equal to Florida's and greater than Ohio's (20). Even if Bush does not win one of these states, campaigning in them is forcing his Democratic rivals Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards to divert scarce time and resources from other battleground states to what used to be reliable Democratic territory. All three states have voted Democrat in the last four presidential races dating back to 1988, and Minnesota has been in the Democratic column since 1972.
The pitched competition for the Upper Midwest has been in the making for some time. Republicans have enjoyed a significant and consistent surge in state elections in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Over the past dozen years or so, the state legislatures flipped from solid Democratic control into the hands of the Republicans even as Democrats continued to hold their own in races for the U.S. Congress.
The suburbs are not politically monolithic. The presidential vote and political attitudes of the inner-ring suburbs are distinct from the more conservative and Republican bastion of the outer suburbs and the more liberal and Democratic urban areas.
It remains unclear, though, whether the national Republican Party can capitalize on the success of its state parties. Is the national Republican Party too conservative for the region? If this is proved true, the Bush/Cheney ticket may end up diverting time and resources from other states that turned out to offer more promising prospects.
This is the first significant public opinion survey of registered voters in the Upper Midwest battleground in 2004 and, specifically, the state of the campaign and political attitudes more generally in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The principal findings include:
- The race is a statistical toss-up between President Bush and Sen. Kerry in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with Kerry narrowly leading in Iowa.
- President Bush's approval ratings among registered voters are hovering close to the symbolically important 50 percent threshold that signals political vulnerability.
- The relatively small but critical group of swing voters who will decide the election's outcome are intensely interested in the 2004 campaign, are open to voting for a third-party candidate, and expect Bush to do a better job on national security while Kerry gets the nod on domestic issues. Their policy preferences defy simple classifications as uniformly liberal or conservative; they prefer moderation on social issues.
- The suburbs are not politically monolithic. The presidential vote and political attitudes of the inner-ring suburbs are distinct from the more conservative and Republican bastion of the outer suburbs and the more liberal and Democratic urban areas.
The study also revealed these important findings:
- Although most attention regarding the personality flaws of the candidates has focused on Kerry, the Humphrey Survey shows that the strongest reaction is reserved for Bush's "stubbornness."
- Voters misperceive the positions of Bush and Kerry on critical policy issues. Three-quarters of voters who support decreasing U.S. troops in Iraq mistakenly believe that Kerry agrees with them, while a quarter who favor state autonomy on education falsely believe that Bush supports strict state control over setting academic standards and measuring student performance. (The No Child Left Behind Act significantly expanded federal intervention.)
- Two-thirds of registered voters indicate that they would consider voting for a third-party candidate. The Libertarian candidate, Michael Badnarik, and the Independent, Ralph Nader, are hurting both Bush and, especially, Kerry by drawing some partisans, independents, and disaffected voters inclined to cast an "anti-incumbent" vote.
- The policy preferences of registered voters defy neat categorization as liberal or conservative. Instead, their views combine liberalism and conservativism, revealing notable differences among Democrats and Republicans that do not conform to simple Red and Blue conclusions about partisan polarization.
The survey is of voting-age adults in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. This report analyzes registered voters: 589 in Minnesota, 575 in Wisconsin, and 614 in Iowa. The Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut fielded the survey. The margin of error is +/-4.
--From the Center for the Study of Politics' 2004 Elections Project, Lawrence R. Jacobs, director