Jul 14, 2023 - Politics

Here's what Minnesota swing voters are saying about the DFL trifecta

Illustration of the Minnesota State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota swing voters in Axios' latest Engagious/Sago focus group support some of the DFL's biggest legislative victories, but overwhelmingly oppose tax increases included in the recent state budget.

Driving the news: Axios observed two online sessions Tuesday comprised of 13 Minnesota voters who backed President Biden in 2020 after supporting former President Trump in 2016. Nine identified as independents, three as Republicans, and one as a Democrat.

  • Although a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events.

Why it matters: How swing voters ultimately view the Legislature's actions could determine whether Democrats retain full control of state government in 2024, when all 134 state House seats are up for election.

  • "Judging from what we heard from Minnesota swing voters, next year’s campaign will be a fight over what was achieved versus what it will cost taxpayers," Engagious president and focus group moderator Rich Thau told Axios.

Of note: The 67 members of the Senate, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority, are not on the ballot until 2026. Gov. Tim Walz’s second term also runs through that election.

By the numbers: The 13 voters were initially divided on the DFL's one-party control at the Capitol: two said it's been a good thing, six viewed it as bad, and five had no opinion.

  • But after reviewing a list of legislation passed during the recent session, nine said they approved of the work accomplished by majority Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz.

Zoom in: All of them supported new laws protecting abortion rights, while universal free meals at schools, a pair of gun measures, guaranteed sick time for most workers, and a free college program for families making under $80,000 garnered strong support.

Yes, but: Eleven voters opposed newly passed revenue sources for transportation funding, which include indexing the gas tax to inflation, a 0.75% metro-area sales tax hike, and a future fee on non-food deliveries over $100.

What they're saying: "They’re taking steps to help improve the quality of life for the middle class," said Mike K., a 38-year-old independent from Eagan whose view of the trifecta went from negative to positive after seeing the list.

  • But Cristy M., also an independent, called the slate of changes passed in just five months "a little excessive." "The money has to come from somewhere," the 38-year-old from Le Sueur County said.

Between the lines: The swing voters were lukewarm on legalizing recreational marijuana, with just four expressing support.

  • Eight supported the new paid family and medical leave law.
  • And just six backed the plan to send $260 rebate checks to millions of Minnesotans. "It’s a drop in the bucket," Jeff said, adding that he would have rather seen lawmakers cut taxes.

Between the lines: Several voters who supported some of the DFL-backed laws still expressed a desire to return to what they described as the "checks and balances" of a divided government.

  • “Normally, you could always count on the Senate to put a stop to something that was just way too much,” Felipe I., an independent 43-year-old from St. Paul, said. “It wasn't there this year.”

The bottom line: While the dynamics of the presidential election will undoubtedly influence the outcome of state races, the results of the recent session will provide plenty of fodder for both sides as they battle to win over key voters.

How swing voters view Gov. Tim Walz

Gov Tim Walz in a black suit in front of a blue flag
Gov. Tim Walz. Photo: Scott Takushi/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

The swing voters voiced fairly positive views of the governor.

Yes, but: Just half of the participants said he has governed in a way that reflects his "One Minnesota" campaign pledge to bridge geographical and political divides.

What they're saying: Balanced, even keel, stable, friendly, and fair were some of the adjectives voters used to describe the two-term Democrat.

The other side: Jeff said he felt the governor "took advantage of us" while Cristy called him "soft."

  • Felipe gave him credit for his handling of the pandemic, but said the incumbent is otherwise "always trying to appeal to the masses."
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