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New KSTP/SUSA poll is Christmas in October

by Jeff Rosenberg on October 18, 2012 · 0 comments

Remember when we told you that September’s KSTP/SurveyUSA poll was an outlier? It looks like we were right. A newly-released poll is chock full of wonderful news: The Marriage Discrimination Amendment appears headed for defeat, the Voter Restriction Amendment is surprisingly close to falling below 50% support, and the DFL has a big lead in the generic legislative ballot.

Q: Also on the ballot is a ballot measure about marriage. It asks: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”
A: Yes 47% No 46% Undecided 7%

Q: Also on the ballot is a measure about voter identification. It asks: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”
A: Yes 53% No 40% Undecided 7%

Q: If the 2012 elections for the Minnesota Legislature were held today, would you be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate? a DFL candidate? Independence Party candidate? Or some other candidate?
A: Republican 36% DFL 45% Independence Party 8% Other 3% Undecided 9%

We called the September KSTP poll an outlier because it bizarrely showed 18-34 year-olds supporting the amendment by a large margin. Basic observation skills tell us that’s unlikely. The new poll shows them in opposition by one point. Even that overstates their support, I suspect, but it’s much closer to reality. Assuming that undecideds break against the amendment, as I expect they will, and the amendment looks poised for defeat.

The Voter Restriction Amendment would still pass if the election were held today, but every poll shows a tighter race than most political observers would have expected. There were three weeks left when the poll was taken, which means there’s still time for it to tighten even more. Can the momentum against the amendment be sustained? Here’s some good news on that front: The poll shows that 30 percent of DFLers still support the amendment. If the DFL and its candidates can manage to sharply decrease that number, the amendment can be defeated.
Finally, the DFL is in line for some big gains in the legislature. Asking about the Independence Party is a bit odd, but the crosstabs show that DFLers and Republicans said they’d vote for the IP in equal proportion, so the DFL’s 9-point advantage probably isn’t being skewed by the question. That’s a major lead, with major implications for the final House and Senate results.

According to Tony Petrangelo’s model, a 7-point lead probably equates to a 77-57 advantage in the House, and a 10-point lead to a 84-5 advantage. Similarly, a 7-point lead equates to a 41-26 advantage in the Senate, while a 10-point lead means a 46-21 advantage. Those numbers are just estimates, of course, but a 9-point lead means a DFL takeover in the legislature.

Christmas in October, indeed!


At the height of the drama (or lack thereof) surrounding the legislatures passage of the Vikings stadium bill, KSTP sent their pollster, SurveyUSA, into the field to find out what voters think about it.

The headline number out of the poll is the finding that, for the first time since polling of the Vikings stadium issue began, a plurality of respondents now support the building of a stadium to replace the metrodome.

SurveyUSA (5/11, 11/8 in parenthesis):

Should the Minnesota Vikings keep playing football in the Metrodome without renovating it? Should they renovate the stadium and keep playing in it? Or should a new stadium be built?

Keep Playing, Don’t Renovate 16 (22)
Renovate the Metrodome 36 (40)
Build a New Stadium 43 (33)
(MoE: ±4.4%)

Over the course of the six months since SurveyUSA last polled this issue, ten points have shifted from the “Don’t Renovate/Renovate,” column to the “Build a New Stadium” column. And if the Twins stadium is any guide, that sentiment will only get stronger over time.

All of which bodes well for Mark Dayton as can be witnessed by the six point improvement in his job approval numbers.
SurveyUSA (5/11, 2/3 in parenthesis):

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mark Dayton is doing as Governor?”

Approve 56 (50)
Disapprove 33 (33)

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job the State Legislature is doing?”

Approve 21 (17)
Disapprove 67 (65)
(MoE: ±4.4%)

The legislature recovered a couple of net approval points, but considering their previous performance they didn’t really have anywhere else to go but up.

It’s hard not to see all of this as a big political win for Mark Dayton, who has managed to out maneuver the GOP legislature on issue after issue, which has just got to drive them crazy.

This next pair of questions might help to illustrate why the stadium vote wasn’t as close as many had suspected it would be.

SurveyUSA (5/11, no trend lines):

If a lawmaker voted in favor of the Vikings stadium would that make you more likely to vote for him in November? Less likely? Or would it make no difference?

More Likely 23
Less Likely 27
No Difference 47

If a lawmaker voted against the Vikings stadium would that make you more likely to vote for him in November? Less likely? Or would it make no difference?

More Likely 25
Less Likely 29
No Difference 44
(MoE: ±4.4%)

The clear plurality of respondents said it made no difference to them how a lawmaker voted on the stadium. Not only that, but the number of respondents who say they will be more or less likely to support someone because of their vote are about equally split.

This combination of a lack of strong opinions among a plurality of the electorate, and a split among those who do feel strongly on this matter means that lawmakers election opponents probably won’t get much traction out of this issue no matter how that lawmaker voted.

SurveyUSA (5/11, 11/8 in parenthesis):

Should legalized gambling be expanded in Minnesota to raise revenue to help finance a new stadium for the Vikings?

Yes 55 (58)
No 33 (36)

Should any tax dollars be used to help finance a new stadium for the Vikings? Or should any new stadium be built entirely with private funding?

Tax Dollars 36 (26)
Entirely with Private Funding 58 (65)

Should there be a public vote before any taxes are raised to pay for a Vikings stadium?

Yes 67 (73)
No 27 (21)

If the Vikings do not get a new stadium, do you think they will move out of Minnesota?

Yes 57 (47)
No 25 (30)
(MoE: ±4.4%)

The movement in the numbers of the last question, a ten point increase in the number of people who thought the Vikings would actually leave if they didn’t get a stadium, could be the driving force of the movement in the question at the top of the post, as well as others.

The amount of respondents who want a new stadium build and think tax dollars should be used, both increased by an identical ten points. Since the time frame between these polls is six months its hard to say exactly what caused this movement, but what is clear is that proponents of the stadium won the messaging war and that victory is likely what lead to the bills easy passage.


Amy KlobucharThis is me, two weeks ago:

Posts about Amy Klobuchar polls are not really that fun to write. Every one is exactly the same, Amy is at around 55% and when you’re at 55% it doesn’t really matter what your challengers are doing.

And hey, look at that, this poll shows her at 55%. Against everyone. Again. For the third time. Call me shocked.

And ten weeks before that:

I might as well just write up a template for all these A-Klo poll posts, because they’ve all been the same so far. Amy Klobuchar is polling well over 50% against her announced opponents and is polling at 50% against the MN GOP’s A-team, who can’t even crack 40% against her.

And today:

SurveyUSA (2/3, 11/8 in parenthesis):

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 56 (55)
Dan Severson (R) 29 (23)
Undecided 15 (22)

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 59 (56)
Joe Arwood (R) 28 (22)
Undecided 14 (22)
(MoE: ±4.3%)

The real notable thing about this poll is that some of the undecideds have come off the fence and almost all of them went into the Republican candidates column, both Severson and Arwood are up 6 points since the last SUSA poll.

While that may seem like a bit of a worrying trend, it’s not. It’s was simply undecided Republicans, deciding to go with the Republican, which was going to happen anyway.

Change in undecideds by party affiliation
Severson Rep Dem Ind
8-Nov 23 12 28
3-Feb 9 10 23
Change -14 -2 -5
Arwood Rep Dem Ind
8-Nov 24 12 27
3-Feb 10 8 22
Change -14 -4 -5

What the above table shows is the percentage of undecided voters in the two match ups, broken out by party affiliation. What you see is that in the November poll there were a lot more undecided Republicans than there are now, which explains why the GOP candidates have gained.

The problem for them is that there are only so many undecided Republicans.

Compared to Amy’s numbers, Mark Dayton may not look that impressive, but compared to the Republican lead Minnesota Legislature, he’s smelling like roses.

SurveuUSA (2/3, no trend lines):

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mark Dayton is doing as Governor?”

Approve 50
Disapprove 33
Not sure 17

“Do you approve or disapprove of the job the State Legislature is doing?”

Approve 17
Disapprove 65
Not sure 18
(MoE: ±4.3%)

Mark Dayton continues to hover right around the 50% mark, PPP had him at pretty much the same numbers two weeks ago (53-34).

The numbers for the legislature though are just straight up dismal. They’re at a comically bad (-48) spread. Even self identified Republicans disapprove of the legislature’s job performance by a remarkably bad (-21) spread.

If you think that’s bad though, check this: 30% of Republicans approve of the job the legislature is doing. 26% of Republicans approve of the job Mark Dayton is doing.

Worst. Legislature. Ever.


Three Minnesota Constitutional Amendment Polls

by TonyAngelo on February 9, 2012 · 5 comments

Gay MarriageBack on February 3rd SurveyUSA, polling for KSTP, released a poll and I completely missed it for six days. So now, like a magazine that’s been in the bathroom for a week, the corners bent and it’s content exhausted, I’ll finally bring it out for inspection.

The folks at SUSA asked about one constitutional amendment that’s already on the ballot and two that seem like they’re destined for that same fate.

SurveyUSA (2/3, 11/8 in parenthesis, 5/25 in brackets):

“An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution on the ballot defines marriage as between one man and one woman, will you vote…”

For 47 (46) [51]
Against 39 (40) [40]
Not vote 10 (10) [8]
Not sure 4 (4) [2]
(MoE: ±4.3%)

This issue has essentially stabilized over the last six months, with amendment supporters holding a small but consistent ~4 point advantage in the average of polls. SurveyUSA though is the only pollster who has given respondants the option of not voting for the amendment and they find 10% who utilize this option.

Those not votes, by people who cast a ballot, will count the same as no votes so it’s tempting to simply lump them together and say that the amendment is actually losing slightly 49-47.  
It’s not quite that simple though. If you look at the cross tabs of that 10% (and here we get into issues of sample size, so beware) you see that they are distributed across the political and ideological spectrum, but those who say they will not vote on the question tend to share many non-political demographic traits with those who tend to support the amendment: high-school education and less then $40k income.

I don’t doubt that some of these people will not vote on the amendment, as they claim, but I also think that some amount of them will end up on one side or the other.

I would guess that it probably ends up braking down that half of these people actually don’t vote on the question while the other half split and half vote for, half against. Under that scenario, you get 49% for the amendment, 41% against and 5% not voting. Add it all up and the amendment has a 49-46 plurality.

That’s all conjecture though.

If we only look back to polls taken since November of last year, support for the amendment has polled in a 48-46 point range while opposition has been in a 44-40 point range. So we’re looking at about a 5 point deficit. I suspect that there will be about 5% who don’t vote on the amendment, and depending on the ordering it could even be higher.

So right now it looks like a 50/50 proposition if I had to place odds on it, not a terrible place to be with nine months to go.

SurveyUSA (2/3, no trend lines):

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot that would designate Minnesota as a “right to work” state, meaning it would be easier for workers to opt out of unions and union dues, how would you vote?”

For 55
Against 24
Not vote 9
Not sure 12
(MoE: ±4.3%)

And if you think that’s depressing…

SurveyUSA (2/3, no trend lines):

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot that would require voters to show photo I.D.’s in order to vote on Election Day, how would you vote?”

For 70
Against 23
Not vote 4
Not sure 4
(MoE: ±4.3%)

There is no silver lining in any of these numbers. Every single demographic group identified in SUSA’s cross tabs says they will vote for both of these amendments. That means self described Democrats and liberals. If we are going to have any chance whatsoever to defeat these amendments we must start with getting our ideological brethren on our side.

Democrats will have to be unified against these amendments to the same degree that Republicans are unified for them. That task began at the precinct caucus’s on Tuesday, but it will have to continue. What worries me is that if we have to get into the weeds on the details of all these different amendments with voters we aren’t going to get much headway.

In the end, what helps us most may be Republicans themselves. If they put even four amendments on the ballot, and especially if there’s more than that, it’s a lot easier to paint them all as a political power grab and run a vote no on everything campaign.


A-Klo cruising

by TonyAngelo on November 11, 2011 · 0 comments

Amy KlobucharIn addition to testing the anti-family amendment and the Vikings stadium SurveyUSA also tested the 2012 Senate race and to absolutely no one’s surprise Amy Klobuchar has wide leads over her announced opposition, Dan/Doc Severson and first term city councilman Joe Arwood.

SurveyUSA (11/8, no trendlines):

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 49
Tim Pawlenty (R) 37
Undecided 14

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 50
Norm Coleman (R) 37
Undecided 14

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 55
Dan Severson (R) 23
Undecided 22

Amy Klobuchar (D-inc) 56
Joe Arwood (R) 22
Undecided 22
(MoE: ±4.3%)

I might as well just write up a template for all these A-Klo poll posts, because they’ve all been the same so far. Amy Klobuchar is polling well over 50% against her announced opponents and is polling at 50% against the MN GOP’s A-team, who can’t even crack 40% against her.

You can see why she does so well by looking at the cross-tabs, she loses at most 7% of Democrats, while taking 17% of Republicans against the known names and 28% against the unknowns. And there is simply nothing in any of these numbers that indicate any vulnerability for the GOP to exploit.

The only real question I have about this race is weather A-Klo can actually do better than the 58% she got in 2006.


Gay MarriageOn Tuesday I posted about the Minnesota Poll and it’s findings vis-a-vie the anti-family amendment, which were discouraging to say the least. Right on the heels of that comes a SurveyUSA poll showing basically the same result, Minnesota voters favoring the amendment by a handful of points.

SurveyUSA (11/8, 5/25 in parenthesis, 3/31 in brackets):

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot, that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, would you vote…”

For 46 (51) [62]
Against 40 (40) [33]
Not vote 10 (8)
Not sure 4 (2) [5]
(MoE: ±4.3%)

This somewhat mirror’s the Strib’s 48-43 result in favor of the amendment. The big difference though is that SurveyUSA gave people the “not vote” option, of which 10% availed themselves.

If people actually voted this way next November the amendment would fail. This is because for an amendment to the Minnesota constitution to pass it needs to receive 50% + 1 of the entire electorate. Meaning not voting on the measure is as good as voting no.

The other thing you can see is that actual support for the amendment has eroded quite a bit since SurveyUSA’s first poll of the issue at the end of March, going from 62% support, to 51% to 46% now. Opposition to the amendment hasn’t risen at the same level as support has fallen, meaning that many people who at first supported the amendment have moved into the “Not vote” and “Not sure” categories.

Like in the Minnesota poll though, there are a substantial number of Democrats, 26% in this case, who are in favor of the amendment while only 58% are opposed. This will simply not do if we want to beat this thing.
Here’s an updated table of all the polls conducted on the amendment (I’ve excluded the first Strib poll, as that one used more favorable question wording that doesn’t reflect how the amendment will appear on the ballot):

MN Anti-Family Amendment Polling
Pollster median date “No” “Yes” NoVote Un margin
SurveyUSA 5/24/2011 40 51 10 -11
PPP 5/29/2011 47 46 7 1
PSRA 11/3/2011 43 48 8 -5
SurveyUSA 11/5/2011 40 46 10 4 -6
Ave 43 48 10 6 -4


About that State Fair poll

by TonyAngelo on September 7, 2011 · 0 comments

MNPrideYesterday, The Big E went over the results of the State Fair poll on the Anti-Family Amendment as it pertains to the task ahead.

Today, I will use the same poll to point out the uncertain nature of the outcome of that task and why organizing will be the key to winning.

First, though, the results of the poll, conducted by the Minnesota House of Representatives, one more time.

“Should the state constitution be amended to define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman?” This question will be on the November 2012 ballot.”

Yes 29.8%
No 66.5%
Undecided 3.7%

What you see is that unlike with normal polls, this poll has no margin of error (but it has insignificant digits!). That’s because it’s actually not a poll at all, it’s a straw poll.

There are two key differentiating factors between the State Fair poll and a poll from, say, Gallup; the nature of the sample and weighting.

At the State Fair anybody can just walk up and take the poll. In a traditional survey every effort is made to get as random a sample as possible. And by random I mean everyone who makes up the sample frame should theoretically have as equal a chance of being a respondent as anyone else.

Additionally, even though you go to every effort to get as random a sample as possible, the final result is often a little different from the actual demographics of the sample frame. To alleviate this, pollsters will weight their samples based on immutable characteristics like age, gender and race. The State Fair poll doesn’t do any of these things.

So, the State Fair (straw) poll violates two of the most fundamental aspects of traditional public opinion polling, but just because it’s a completely unscientific survey doesn’t mean we can’t do a little bit of analysis right?
Let’s take a look at another question from the State Fair survey:

“Should voters be required to show a current, government-issued picture ID before casting their ballot?”

Yes 50.8%
No 46.4%
Undecided/No Opinion 2.8%

Now let’s look at similar questions from the last time SurveyUSA polled the state back in May:

KSTP (SurveyUSA) (5/25):

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot, that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, would you vote…”

For the amendment 51
Against the amendment 40
Not vote on the measure 8
Not sure 2

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot, that requires voters to present a photo ID at the polls, would you vote…”

For the amendment 76
Against the amendment 18
Not vote on the measure 4
Not sure 1
(MoE: ±4.3%)

In the SurveyUSA poll the marriage amendment was at +11 and voter ID was at +58(!), a 47 point spread. In the state fair poll they were at -37 and +5, a 42 point spread.

That’s pretty close, meaning Minnesotan’s opinions on both issues likely haven’t changed much at all since May and if the State Fair poll would have done some simple weighting based on; age, gender and race they could have produced a poll with some really valuable results.

But as it is the most we can glean from it is that things probably haven’t changed much and that means it’s really close and will likely remain so until election day.

In the introduction to this post I said that I would:

point out the uncertain nature of the outcome of that task and why organizing will be the key to winning.

Well, I did the first part above, so this part relates to that second, more important bit.

What is clear from the results of the State Fair poll is that people against the amendment came out in droves to vote against it. As E-dog pointed out in his post, both sides tried to whip votes and one side simply trounced the other.

That is how we will win on this issue in November, by organizing better then they do.

For those who want to help, please volunteer at:

Minnesotans United for All Families
Outfront MN


KSTP poll: It’s all in the question

by TonyAngelo on June 21, 2011 · 0 comments

@aaronklemz If you were going to commission a poll at this point, wouldn't YOU ask

That pretty much sums up my feelings about this poll. Only I might add a WTF, or something similar, but I’m a bit more uncouth than Aaron is.

KSTP, as they are wont to do, asked a couple different questions about the budget, but none of them really got to the point; who’s budget do you favor the Governor’s or the GOP Legislature’s.

Not only that, they asked completely different questions from the survey that they did at the end of May, only one month ago, meaning we can’t even really compare the two surveys.

SurveyUSA (6/20, no trendlines):

Going forward, should Minnesota’s government increase spending? Decrease spending? Or continue to spend about the same amount as it has been?

Increase 8
Decrease 60
About The Same 27
Not Sure 5
(MoE: ±4.1%)

This question is just dumb. An increase in spending is not even on the table unless you consider Governor Dayton’s plan to be an  increase in spending, which it is not. The Governor’s plan proposes to decrease spending compared to projections.

No one involved in the negotiations is advocating for an increase in spending so why ask the question this way? And again, why ask a different question then the one you asked in May?

SurveyUSA (5/24, no trendlines):

Minnesota has a five billion dollar budget deficit. Should Minnesota raise taxes on just the wealthiest Minnesotans? Raise taxes on all Minnesotans? Cut spending? Or raise taxes and cut spending?

Raise Taxes on Wealthy 31
Raise Taxes on All 4
Cut Spending 36
Both 27
Not Sure 2
(MoE: ±4.3%)

And that was a different formulation than the one they used in March.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I was in charge of commissioning polls for a news organization I think I would want my questions to be consistent, so I could do things like, you know, compare recent surveys with ones I did only a month ago.

Apparently KSTP wasn’t happy with the question wording it used in May, not that I blame them, but rather than improving the question they simply doubled down on the dumb. As Aaron said in his above tweet, why not just ask who’s plan you support?

Not only that, there was no question to all of the respondents asking how they fell about increased taxes on the wealthy. The question on revenue was only asked of those who said they support increasing state spending, again, a position that no one is taking.

Fortunately approval/disapproval questions are really hard to mess up and in these numbers we get a similar picture to the other recent polling.

SurveyUSA (6/20, no trendlines):

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mark Dayton is doing as Governor?  

Approve 42
Disapprove 43
Not sure 15

Do you approve or disapprove of the job the State Legislature is doing?

Approve 23
Disapprove 65
Not sure 12
(MoE: ±4.1%)

While Governor Dayton’s numbers here are worse then the recent PPP poll, so are the legislature’s and the differences between the two remain the same.

In the KSTP poll Dayton is at – 1 and the Leg is at – 42(!), a roughly 40 point difference. In the PPP poll Dayton was at +13 with the GOP Leg at -29, again, a roughly 40 point difference.

Obviously, there is a segment of voters who support the Governor, yet when asked how they would deal with the budget issue respond with the answer of decreasing spending, which is part of the Governor’s plan anyway. So again, the results of this poll don’t really tell us anything because KSTP asked questions that don’t really mean anything.

How should the question have been asked?

“Do you support Governor Dayton’s plan to balance the budget through spending cuts and increased taxes on the wealthy or do you support the Legislature’s plan to balance the budget through spending cuts?”

That wasn’t hard now was it?


PhotobucketSurveyUSA had their polling robots calling Minnesotan’s on the 23rd and 24th, the robots came back with these results.

KSTP (SurveyUSA) (5/25, 3/31 in parenthesis):

“If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot, that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, would you vote…”

For the amendment 51 (62)
Against the amendment 40 (33)
Not vote on the measure 8
Not sure 2 (5)
(MoE: ±4.3%)

While the topline numbers are not great, the trendlines are. In just a couple months the For side has gone from a +29 spread to a +11 spread, an incredible 18 point drop. Additionally, if you add the “Not vote on the measure” group to the Against group (since not voting on the amendment is just as good as a no) it gets narrowed down to a 3 point advantage.

So even though the top line numbers of this poll look ugly, I would make that case that it’s actually good news. The problem for supporters of the amendment is that people will vote on it a year and a half from now and the thing that helps our side the most is time.

To illustrate that point here’s the breakdown by age (For/Against):

65+ 66/27
50-64 52/40
35-49 51/37
18-34 42/50

The more old people who stop voting and the more young people who grow into voting age the more support our side has. It’s that simple.


SurveyUSA polls the Governor’s race again

by TonyAngelo on November 15, 2010 · 2 comments

SurveyUSA (11/10, 10/28 in parentheses):

Mark Dayton (D): 45 (39)
Tom Emmer (R): 44 (38)
Tom Horner (I): 9 (13)
Undecided: 1 (6)
(MoE: ±3%)

KSTP decided that it would be fun to resurvey the Minnesota Governor’s race, you know, now that we know the outcome and everything.

What they found was confirmation of what happened and although we have actual ballots to tell us Mark Dayton won, the ballots don’t tell us about some of the underlying numbers that this poll sheds a little light on.
Umm, that’s not right

David Brauer of MinnPost already pointed out the most glaring aspect of the poll:

The 1,400-person poll’s very first question: “Did you vote in Tuesday’s election for Minnesota’s governor?” 81 percent said yes.

The actual figure: 58 percent.

That’s a 23 point miss, no small amount of error, leading Brauer to believe that more than a few Minnesotans were less than honest about their civic mindedness.

But given SUSA’s general accuracy this cycle, a simpler scenario is that people fibbed. Researchers call it a “socially desirable response” – you’re likelier to tell a stranger (or, in this robo-poll, a stranger’s recorded voice) that you did your civic duty.

I’m not so sure this is what is going on.

For one thing, Nate Silver has found evidence that the “socially desirable response” effect is diminished when the poll is conducted by an automated pollster.

Automated polls have sometimes shown relatively lower levels support for gay marriage initiatives, for instance, in states like Maine and California. Homophobia is fairly common, but has become socially undesirable; the purveyors of the automated polls have sometimes claimed that their respondents are free to be more honest when there’s not another human being on the line.

If this is true then voters shouldn’t have as much trouble admitting to an automated script that they didn’t vote. This means there is another factor at work here and the most likely culprit is non-response bias.

In short, the people who actually pick up the phone for the pollsters call, stay on the phone once they realize it’s a pollster calling and subsequently complete the survey are more likely to be people who also voted.

If you’re not willing to go vote, you’re also probably not willing to talk to a pollster about how you didn’t go vote. On the other hand, if you did go vote you’re more likely to want to talk to a pollster about voting.

This kind of non-response bias is actually helpful to pollsters when conducting polls before an election. That’s because who a pollster considers a likely voter is a big part of how accurate a poll will be and this non-response bias helps to sift out those who are unlikely to vote.

But when doing this type of post election survey, non-response bias can lead to weird results like this. It’s hard to say what exactly is driving the 23 point gap between the poll and reality, but I don’t think it’s because 23% of Minnesotan’s are lying liars, although I don’t doubt that some are.

That said, for that sake of this analysis I’m going to assume that the underlying numbers are valid, but feel free to take it with a grain of salt if not a shaker.

Assuming Minnesotan’s are not lying liars

Tom Emmer lost the election in June

The last question that SUSA asked in the survey was this one:

What do you think is the best way to balance the state budget? Raise taxes? Cut spending? Or both?

Raise Taxes: 6
Cut Spending: 59
Both: 32
Not Sure: 3
(MoE: ±2.6%)

If we add up all the responses except “Cut spending,” we get 41, which is less than the amount of people who said they voted for Mark Dayton. Put another way, 59% of respondents said they supported Tom Emmer’s position on how to balance the budget, but only 44% of those people said they voted for him.

Apparently 15% of respondents supported Tom Emmers position on the budget, his most clear and consistent message, and yet didn’t vote for him.

It’s apparent that Tom Emmer’s image never recovered from the hit it took early on with the tip credit fiasco and other such gaffes. Even though he consistently pushed the “cut spending” message, people weren’t able to get past their initial negative feelings about him.

The enthusiasm gap

The partisan numbers of those who voted sheds a little light on why Democrats lost the Minnesota House and Senate.

Group: Those who voted/Didn’t vote

All Voters: 81/19
Democrat: 77/22
Republican: 91/9
Indy: 80/20

As we already knew, Republicans turned out in greater numbers than Democrats and Independents, and that appears to have been the primary difference in a number of close races.

Who did Horner hurt?

Of course the big news out of this poll, is that Horner took more votes from Mark Dayton than from Tom Emmer. KSTP featured this aspect of the poll in their headline:

KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll: Horner Drew More Votes From Dayton

That headline is another thing that Brauer takes issue with and he should.

This particular question in the poll, which was asked of those who said they voted for Horner has an astronomical 9.9% margin of error. This is because those who said they voted for Horner only make up 9% of the sample.

The poll shows those Horner voters breaking for Mark Dayton 37-29, but that is an eight point margin, falling within the question’s margin of error, meaning you should be careful drawing any sort of sweeping conclusions from it, like the above headline.

Choice of Headlines

David Brauer is right to question KSTP’s choice of headline, unfortunately the article he uses to pose this question has headline problems of it’s own.

“Did Minnesotan’s lie to KSTP’s pollster?” is no better than “Horner Drew More Votes From Dayton” because both are specious claims. And yes, I can see the question mark that Brauer put in his headline, but the content of the article purports to provide the answer to the question posed while I don’t believe that it does. Not the correct answer at least.


A poll like this is not really useful for the topline numbers it provides, we had an election for that. Rather, if the topline numbers roughly match the real numbers, as they do in this case, the underlying data will provide some useful information.

The crosstabs on the topline numbers, for instance, will offer insights that can’t be gleaned from the ballots alone. Even the questions asked of Horner voters, at a 9.9% MoE can provide some useful info if put into the proper perspective.

The usefulness of this poll is that it helps to confirm some of the speculation as to what happened on election day. Republicans turned out in droves, and despite that Tom Emmer couldn’t recover from his awful introduction to Minnesota voters even though his message resonated with people.