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Who's Looking On the Sunny Side of Life?

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The Midwest…the heartland of America…where caustic coastal cynicism has not yet taken root and a hearty optimism about life in these United States still prevails. Syrupy, true, but that description about life in the Upper Midwest sounds like it might once have been plausible. But, of course, this description simply isn't true anymore: folks in the Upper Midwest are just as dour about the direction of the nation as those in California and Florida.

In Iowa 59 percent of its citizens think the country is headed in the wrong direction, with just 31 percent feeling the nation is on the right course (Iowa Poll, September 2006).

Minnesotans are a tad more skeptical, with 62 percent believing America is off on the wrong track and just 28 percent believing we're headed in the right direction (Pioneer Press / MPR, September 2006).

A stunning 68 percent of Wisconsinites think the country is going in the wrong direction, with only 27 percent feeling the United States is on the right path (Wisconsin Public Research Institute, June 2006).

The latest related polling in South Dakota is a year old, but the trend at that time was the same: 63 percent wrong direction, 32 percent right direction (Survey USA)—a 43 point net swing in negativity from a Daily Republic poll from just a year and a half prior (March 2004).

The extent of how this malaise will impact voter turnout and the fate of incumbents in November 2006 is yet to be determined, as citizens in all four states are more optimistic about the direction of their particular states. But—all things being equal—when the glasses of Upper Midwesterners turn from rose-colored to cloudy, those in power should be at least a bit nervous.

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2 Comments


  • Eric, I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog. These are all very compelling and thoughtful posts. Anyway, keep up the great work!

    Question: You don't seem to focus on local races too much (MN House and Senate), but do you have any sense of how the two stadium approvals will impact the upcoming election?

  • > do you have any sense of how the two stadium approvals will impact the upcoming election?

    In recent polling, the issue of new stadiums has not registered among the Top 7 most important issues facing the state of Minnesota -- so I don't think this will be a defining issue in the November elections. Given it is not a top concern, I would be suprised if the truly disgruntled shifted the election results here by more than a single percentage point on this issue.

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    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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