Study of nearly 70 SurveyUSA polls finds GOP holding first party ID advantage since October 2005; percentage of Minnesotans identifying as Republicans at highest level ever recorded by polling organization
The first SurveyUSA poll of the Minnesota gubernatorial horserace in 2010 turned heads this weekend with Republican Party endorsee Tom Emmer jumping out of the gate with eight-point leads over DFL- endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher and former DFL U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, and an 11-point lead over former DFL legislator Matt Entenza.
Beneath the headline, however, is perhaps an even more telling story - Republicans have now eclipsed Democrats in party identification for the first time in the Gopher State since 2005.
A Smart Politics analysis of 68 SurveyUSA polls conducted since May 2005 finds that the 36 to 35 percent advantage Republicans hold over Democrats in the new poll (conducted May 3-5 of 588 likely voters) is the first time the GOP has held such an advantage in SurveyUSA polling since October 2005 (when the GOP held a 29 to 28 percent advantage and 41 percent identifying as independents).
No other polling firm has surveyed Minnesotans more than SurveyUSA during this span.
The 36 percent level reached by Minnesota Republicans is also the largest ever notched by the GOP in the Gopher State across the nearly 70 polls conducted by SurveyUSA during these five years (polls which have alternately sampled adults, registered voters, and likely voters).
The previous high recorded for the Republican Party by SurveyUSA in Minnesota was 35 percent in the organization's inaugural monthly tracking poll in May 2005.
The GOP had previously eclipsed the 30 percent mark in party ID only 12 times during this five-year stretch and just 5 times out of the 48 polls conducted in Minnesota since 2007.
Republican Party ID had slipped to 23 percent in early March of this year - three weeks before the high profile health care vote in Washington D.C.
The record highs reached by the Republican Party in the new SurveyUSA poll give pause to one of the themes running through the media this election season - that the politically disgruntled American public is equally disgusted with both major parties.
If this were to be true, it would surely be a boon to newly endorsed Independence Party candidate Tom Horner. Horner polled at 9 and 10 percent in the horserace matchups against Emmer and the three DFL hopefuls.
However, the new SurveyUSA poll finds only 24 percent of Minnesotans identifying as a political independents.
The percentage of Minnesotans identifying as independents has gradually been on the decline, according to a Smart Politics analysis of SurveyUSA data.
Independents comprised a plurality of 36.3 percent of Minnesotans across eight polls in 2005, dropping to 28.5 percent across 12 polls in 2006, 28.0 percent across 16 polls in 2007, 25.7 percent across 20 polls in 2008, and 25.7 percent across 10 polls in 2009.
Note: The margin of error of the new SurveyUSA poll is +/- 4.1 points. Although the one-point advantage for the GOP is statistically insignificant, the larger point of this report is that the Republican Party has rarely seen numbers even within the margin of error of the Democratic Party's lead during the past half-decade in the Gopher State.
The Democratic Party has enjoyed yearly average advantages over the GOP in Minnesota of 6.3 points in 2006, 10.0 points in 2007, 9.4 points in 2008, and 10.4 points in 2009.
Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.