Minnesota State Capitol (mnprairieroots.wordpress.com).
by Tony Petrangelo
Sep 17, 2012, 7:00 AM

Minnesota Legislature generic ballot tests from last week’s polls

Last week both SurveyUSA and Public Policy Polling released polls of the state. I’ve already covered the amendment portions of both polls, as well as the Presidential and Senatorial portions of those polls. Uncovered by me so far are the generic ballot tests for the Minnesota legislature that appeared in both of those polls.

The Minnesota legislature is, after all, the topic of much discussion not only on this website, but the whole constellation of Minnesota Progressive/Lefty/Liberal/Democratic/Regional/Etc Blogs. So the portion of those polls concerning the Minnesota legislature will get some pixel love of their very own. In this post.


SurveyUSA (9/10, 7/20 in parenthesis):

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?
Republican 38 (40)
DFL 45 (45)
Independence 6 (8)
Other 3 (2)
Undecided 9 (6)
(MoE: ±4.3%)

Since the vast majority of the legislative races do not feature choices other than DFL or Republican (I don’t know why SuveryUSA even offers those as options for a generic ballot test) you can probably just add Independence, Other and Undecided up into one column. Doing this you see the two points the Republicans lost show up in that third bucket which is plus two overall.

This likely has more to do with a slightly less Republican sample, two points less Republican to be exact, than any actual movement.

PPP (9/12, 6/4 in parenthesis):

If there was an election for the legislature today, do you think you would vote for the DFL or Republican candidate from your district?
DFL 47 (48)
Republican 44 (36)
Not sure 9 (16)
(MoE: ±3.4%)

These numbers represent a sharp contrast to the SurveyUSA numbers, but not necessarily in the current top lines, but in the apparent trends. And you can’t chalk it up to the sample composition being substantially different from last time, it’s a little more Republican leaning a sample, but not much more.

The reality though, is that the previous numbers showing the DFL ahead by twelve points were probably on the very high side of possible outcomes. That kind of a spread was something we were seeing in the Democratic wave years of 2006 and 2008. There is no evidence right now that this year will be a wave for either side.

Here is a lovingly prepared spreadsheet showing the percentage of the total two party legislative vote in elections since 2002.

The column titled “spread” is the difference in total votes between the two parties (rounded, so they may not add to 100%), and “result” is the number of seats the Democratic party won or lost as a result of that election.

You can see that in wave Democratic years the spread number is over 10 points, while in Republican wave years it’s barely at -2. Meaning Democrats have to get many more votes overall than the GOP does overall in order to win back the majority.

If you average the generic ballot test numbers in the two polls discussed above you get the DFL with 46% and the GOP with 41%, for a five point spread. That would portend a result like 2004 when the election resulted in a virtual tie in the house (that was an off cycle for the Senate). Or, there is the case of the Senate in 2002, when the DFL actually lost some seats despite a four point vote advantage.

Those 2002 Senate numbers were probably influenced a great deal by the post-redistricting environment they occurred in. We are of course in a post-redistricting environment right now, but this one seems to have been at least neutral to the DFL if not marginally helpful.

All of the macro trends and underlying numbers in the fight for the state legislature point to a very close result in both chambers. These generic ballot numbers only reinforce that bit of conventional wisdom.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.