KSTP/SurveyUSA poll: DFL leads governor, secretary of state races; GOP leads AG, auditor campaigns

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Minnesota Republicans are seeking to break a 16-year losing streak in statewide races, and 2022 could be shaping up to be the year it happens.

Republicans lead the races for attorney general and state auditor and remain within striking distance in the secretary of state campaign even though the Democratic incumbent currently leads in our latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. However, they trail in the race for Minnesota governor, the biggest prize at stake this year.

Gov. Tim Walz leads Republican Scott Jensen 51% to 43% with 4% undecided and 2% preferring someone else.

The poll includes a survey of 836 “likely voters” across Minnesota. The poll’s “credibility interval,” similar to margin of error, is ±3.9%. The poll was conducted from Oct. 26-30. Of the poll respondents, 36% identified themselves as Republicans, 33% as Democrats and 26% as independents.

See past KSTP/SurveyUSA poll results

“It’s possible for Jensen to win, but a lot of things have to happen,” says Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier. “A lot of things have to break his way because an eight-point deficit this late in the campaign is difficult to overcome.”

Jensen trails despite big leads among voters on key issues in the campaign. He leads 57% to 38% on the economy, 64% to 28% among those who cite inflation as a big concern and 61% to 30% on crime. Walz has a big lead on the other major issue cited by voters, abortion, by a margin of 84% to 14%. However, Jensen has been targeted by Walz and interest groups spending more than $10 million dollars criticizing Jensen for his position on abortion.

“The campaign messaging from the DFL has really tried to encourage people to think negatively about Jensen as a person and that may explain why he’s underperforming despite his big issue advantages,” Schier said after analyzing our latest poll numbers.

Walz also leads in the Twin Cities metro area 56% to 38% and southern Minnesota 50% to 44%. Jensen leads 53% to 41% in western Minnesota and 54% to 40% in northeastern Minnesota. “Walz has a substantial lead in the metro, and it’s a big enough lead to eclipse, I think, Jensen’s lead in western and northern Minnesota,” Schier said.

GOP candidates gain ground in down-ticket races

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Another significant development in our poll is Republican Jim Schultz taking the lead over DFL incumbent Keith Ellison with a week to go before the election. Schultz leads 49% to 42% with 9% undecided. Ellison led by 6 points in our poll in early September and by 2 points in early October.

RELATED: KSTP/SurveyUSA poll: 3 statewide races all toss-ups with a month to go

“Ellison has to hope that almost all of the undecideds vote for the incumbent, and that very rarely happens,” Schier said. “Most undecideds vote for the challenger.”

On key issues, Schultz leads by 54 points on crime, 73% to 19%. On abortion, Ellison leads by 55 points, 73% to 18%. Geographically, Ellison has just a 6-point lead in the Twin Cities metro area, 49% to 43%, where many statewide Democrats lead by double digits. Schultz has big leads in every other part of the state.

“The fact that Schultz has a huge margin amongst those who think crime is a top issue really helps to explain his lead,” says Schier.

The Republican candidate has also taken the lead for the first time in our polling in the Minnesota state auditor’s race. Ryan Wilson leads incumbent Democrat Julie Blaha 44% to 39% with 14% undecided.

“Blaha is running the weakest of any of the statewide DFL candidates,” Schier notes. “She is under 40% with a week to go. That is a very dangerous situation for her.”

Read KSTP’s full 2022 Election coverage

There’s better news for Democratic incumbent Secretary of State Steve Simon, who leads Republican challenger Kim Crockett 47% to 41% with 12% undecided.

Although that’s a substantial lead, Schier says the number of undecideds means this race is still tight.

“Simon has a substantial lead over Crockett, but he’s under 50% and 14% are undecided,” Schier said. “So there’s a lot of fluidity still in this race.”

SurveyUSA interviewed a representative cross-section of 1,200 Minnesota adults online from Oct. 26-30 using a sample provided by Lucid Holdings, LLC of New Orleans.

Of the adults, 1,030 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 836 were identified by SurveyUSA as being likely to vote in the November 2022 general election and were asked the questions which follow.

The pool of adult survey respondents was weighted to U.S. Census targets for gender, age, race, education, and home ownership.

View the full survey results below: