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Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has one surprising result

by Eric Ferguson on September 25, 2012 · 1 comment

life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness --- amendedThe Star Tribune published results of its Minnesota Poll Sunday on the anti-marriage amendment and the voter restriction amendment, and Monday on the presidential race. Mostly they confirmed what other polls have found, but there is one piece of substantial news. They found support for the voter restriction amendment is way down to 52%. Opposition is up to 44%, and 4% were undecided.

h/t Tony Petrangelo who points out two substantial caveats on calling dropping support a trend. One is the last time they polled on restricting voting rights was May last year, when the question was just a bill, not a constitutional amendment. Also, the Star Tribune changed pollsters, so even if everything else was the same, that makes comparisons difficult.

My own response was to dismiss it because it shows the amendment passing by a much narrower amount than prior polls, plus my normal skepticism about believing what I want to be true, evidence aside. My skepticism on this result weakened, however, considering the marriage and presidential results.
I noticed that the marriage result is about where the other polls are, showing a tiny lead for the pro-amendment side. It found the same age divide, with younger voters being strong against the amendment. It also showed what we’ve seen consistently on polls about marriage equality, that civil unions would pass easily and maybe even win a majority of Republicans, but the word “marriage” is a big hang up for a substantial number of people, enough to explain why civil unions would pass easily but marriage struggles. The poll didn’t ask whether those supporting one but not the other understand that religion aside, looking just at legality, civil unions and marriages just aren’t the same.

Likewise, the presidential result, 48-40 for Obama looks like other polls. Combining that with the decrease in support shown by other polls, my skepticism is fading and I’m finding it plausible the voter restriction amendment could be beaten. Not likely yet, but possible, and the improvement is welcome.

The poll discovered the drop in support has been almost entirely among Democrats. Early on, discouragingly for those of us who already familiar with the issue when the legislature took it up last year, even most DFLers supported it. Now DFL support is down to 22%, even a touch lower than the marriage amendment’s support at 24%. They found DFLers support Obama 93%, and this suggests where the sweet spot may be for beating these amendments.

Roughly 10% of DFLers plan to vote for Obama, but also for the amendments. These are presumably the most persuadable voters we have. Just getting all DFLers planning to vote for Obama to also oppose the amendments ought to be enough to let us beat the marriage amendment. It’s not enough to beat the voter restriction amendment, but it gets it in range. We’ll still have to persuade either some Republicans or some independents.

There’s also an obvious place to start persuading Obama supporters. Point out that though the president hasn’t said anything specifically on Minnesota’s amendments, he has consistently opposed photo ID and other restrictions on voting rights, and he endorsed marriage equality. That might make a voter open to the arguments on the specific amendments, and the odds are we’re talking to people who don’t know much about the issues, and probably much of what they know is wrong.

One last point on assuming people know the basics. I had a conversation recently where I was asked if leaving the amendments blank would count as “yes” votes. This person had heard this from another amendment opponent, an audience member at a forum who was interested enough to attend but yet had this bit wrong. It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered someone wrong or unsure on something very basic, even someone I’d assumed would be informed. So just to not make that assumption, a non-vote on a constitutional amendment counts as a “no”. It requires a majority of all people who vote at all. Since it takes just a simple majority of each house of the legislature to put an amendment on the ballot, this is the only thing we have in the way of a supermajority requirement for changing the constitution.

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