Minnesota voters are evenly split on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office, but clear majorities believe that he lies and abuses his power, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found.
More than half of people even in reliably Republican parts of the state agree with the notion that he abuses power, the poll found. Views of his honesty were more striking: Six in 10 said he doesn't generally tell the truth.
Abuse of power could become a central element of impeachment proceedings against the president, which were triggered by a July phone call in which he pressed Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden and the Democratic former vice president's son.
The poll found that 48% of Minnesotans oppose impeachment while 47% support it. Because the difference is within the poll's 3.5 percentage-point error margin, it amounts to a deadlock. Recent national polls have concluded that about 51% of Americans now back impeachment.
Minnesotans' views of the president break sharply along gender lines, with women overwhelming giving him low approval ratings and saying that he abuses his power, the poll found. Trump continues to do best among voters in the Twin Cities suburbs and in rural areas.
Although the election is more than a year away, and it's unclear how the impeachment drama will play out, Trump's shaky standing raises questions about his prospects in a state he has vowed to win and which he might need in 2020.
Interviews with registered voters who answered poll questions illustrated the polarized climate.
"If he doesn't get impeached, he'll get voted out," said Betty Mueller of Mound, an independent voter who, like most Minnesotans, said the inquiry is not driven by partisan politics. She's 92 and cast her first presidential vote for Harry Truman. Trump, she said, is "the worst we've ever had."
Charlie Plaisance, 35, a small-business owner from East Bethel, holds the opposite view. Democrats in Washington "are grasping at straws" by launching the impeachment inquiry, he said. "I believe that [Trump] is doing great things for our country," especially when it comes to the economy.
Public support for impeaching the president and removing him from office is stronger now than it was when congressional hearings began into the conduct of presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.
Gallup polls found that 19% of Americans were in favor of impeachment at the start of both those inquiries.
A majority of Americans never backed Clinton's impeachment and removal during the investigation of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Public support peaked at 35% in Gallup polls in September 1998.
Clinton was impeached by the House in December 1998 on charges of obstructing justice and lying to a grand jury. He was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999.
For Nixon, that 19% reading came in the summer of 1973, soon after televised hearings into the Watergate scandal by a Senate committee began. When he resigned in August 1974, 58% of Americans said he should be removed from the presidency, Gallup found.
Duluth dentist William Schuldt, 68, was among 5% of Minnesotans in the poll who said they are undecided about impeaching Trump.
He noted the turmoil the country experienced during the Nixon saga and explained that he's hesitant because "we need to look at all the evidence" before proceeding against Trump.
"They should bring absolutely every count of evidence or suspicion about where he has failed as president," Schuldt said.
The accumulation of alleged wrongdoing — campaign finance fraud, payments to former mistresses, profiting from the office and the current Ukraine situation — also could warrant criminal charges after Trump leaves office, he said. "You have to do what's best for justice and let this play out," he said. "You have to respect the fact that people voted for him."
Four in 10 Minnesotans in the Minnesota Poll approve of Trump's job performance, underscoring his potential vulnerability. The telephone poll of 800 registered voters was conducted Oct. 14-16.
His approval rating in a Real Clear Politics average of national polls is 42.7%.
Minnesotans' opinions about impeachment, coupled with disapproval of the way Trump is doing his job and skepticism about his dishonesty and abuse of power, suggest that many voters are angry. That could translate into an uphill fight if he hopes to fulfill his pledge to carry the state, which he lost narrowly to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
There's no chance Autumn Templin will vote for him. "I'd like to be able to trust my president, at least on a certain level," said the 38-year-old student from Bloomington. "I also think it would be nice to have a president who doesn't embarrass the country."
Ryan Fenger, 43, a software developer from Marshall, shares Templin's dismay about Trump's honesty issues, but said that Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry "are really wasting their time and energy" because there's no proof of wrongdoing. He voted for Trump in 2016 and might again because he doesn't much like his Democratic rivals.
Those signs of trouble extend to some of the places and voters he'll need next year.
Half of women, an increasingly important voter bloc — especially in the suburbs — support impeachment; 43% of men do. More women than men also disapproved of Trump's job performance, 59-52%, and said he doesn't usually tell the truth, 64-58%.
Younger voters between 18 and 34 were the president's most adamant critics in the Minnesota Poll, with six in 10 supporting impeachment, but that age group has a history of low election turnout.
The poll identified possible reservoirs of support among voters in the 50-64 age bracket. They were most inclined to oppose impeachment, with 57% of them saying they're against it. They also were most likely to call the inquiry partisan politics and to say he's generally truthful — although fewer than half held that view.
Hennepin and Ramsey counties are home to voters who most adamantly oppose Trump, with 63% wanting him impeached and removed. But his standing is better in metro suburbs and rural areas to the north and south.
His strongest approval rating comes from the suburbs, but at 49% doesn't represent a majority view. More than half of suburban and rural voters oppose impeachment, and more of them think it's a partisan process.
Yet most voters in those areas doubt Trump's honesty.
Michael Graves of St. Louis Park puts himself in that category. He sees a pattern in Trump's behavior. "He did it once with the whole Russia deal, and now he's doing it again," he said.
A former taxi driver who now works in retail, Graves, 45, said he's met people like the president. "They're out to make money, and they're going to lie to you. … I don't think he really cares about any punishment or anything like that."
The president has won over Danny Nash, 82. "I never liked the man before he got into office, but what he's done I've really gone along with," said the retired salesman from Minnetonka, who didn't vote for Trump in 2016. He likes the improving economy, Trump's emphasis on border security and his desire to bring U.S. troops home from overseas.
"He's an average politician," Nash said. "He's as honest as any of them." He follows the impeachment debate but said, "I don't think it's serious enough" to oust him. "I don't think it's going anywhere."
So unless "something awful drastic" comes to light that changes his mind, he'll vote for the president next year.