A new Minnesota Public Radio News/ Humphrey Institute poll shows Democratic nominee Mark Dayton with a 12-point lead over Republican nominee Tom Emmer in the race for governor.
According to the poll, likely voters are more concerned about the economy and jobs than any other issue.
The poll shows Dayton and Emmer have each gained some support over the past month. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner has lost ground.
Even though Emmer has picked up a couple of points, he trails Dayton, 41 to 29 percent. Horner is a distant third with just 11 percent.
Dayton has built a broad coalition of support, said University of Minnesota Political Science Professor Larry Jacobs, who oversaw the poll. Dayton has the advantage among women and lower-income voters and is holding his own among affluent voters.
"This election seems to be firming up and at this point Dayton appears to be heading for a victory," Jacobs said.
The poll surveyed 751 likely Minnesota voters from last Thursday through Monday of this week. It has a conventional margin or error of 3.6 percent and a more conservative margin of 5.5 percent.
Mike Daley, of South Minneapolis, who took part in the survey, staffs a technical help desk for an insurance company in Bloomington. He plans to vote for Dayton.
"I just think he's probably the best choice of the three that we have right now," said Daley, 51.
Daley likes Dayton's call for universal health care. He also likes Dayton's proposal to fix the state budget gap, in part by increasing taxes on top income earners. Daley said Dayton's approach is fairer than Horner's proposal to expand the sales tax.
"I think the people on the upper end of the scale have more leeway as far as expendable income to pay those kinds of taxes whereas there are a lot of people on the lower end of the scale who just don't have that kind of money," Daley said.
Several recent independent polls have shown Dayton with a lead. The Star Tribune Minnesota poll published Sunday had Dayton ahead of Emmer by seven points. A State Cloud State University poll showed Dayton with a 10-point lead.
Jacobs said Minnesota appears to be defying national trends that show Republicans with an election advantage. He said Dayton seems to have tapped into voter anger.
"I think it was, you know, ‘let's tax the other guy,’ particularly the rich, that ended up working pretty well here for Dayton,” Jacobs said. “You're not seeing it anywhere else in the country. Dayton is probably the most liberal statewide candidate running.”
In a difficult year for Democrats, a Dayton win would make national news, Jacobs said.
However, the poll found one in five likely Minnesota voters are still undecided on the governor's race or not saying who they're voting for.
During the time pollsters were contacting likely voters, President Obama visited Minnesota to campaign for Dayton. Jacobs said it's clear from the polling data that Obama's visit bolstered support for Dayton.
"That's helped him, but it does raise a question as to whether there will be an ebbing or a kind of leveling out of that support,” Jacobs said. “As we move on, we may actually see Dayton's lead shrink a bit."
While the poll shows Dayton in a strong position days before the election, Jacobs said, with so many undecided voters and with more than four in 10 Horner supporters saying they might change their mind, there is plenty of room for the horse-race numbers to change between now and Tuesday.
"With Horner's support so soft, his candidacy could actually implode and then that would free up a good number of voters,” Jacobs said. “We're seeing that there are more Republicans supporting Horner than Democrats. They may be particularly inclined to head back and support the Emmer campaign in the closing days."
The poll might have one other bright spot for Emmer. Jacobs said Dayton's support is softer than Emmer's, meaning Dayton has more supporters than Emmer supporters who may still change their minds.
Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard in Minneapolis on 91.1 FM or online at MPRnews.org.
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