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Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a small lead over President Donald Trump among registered voters in Minnesota, according to the first presidential poll in the state since the Democrat clinched his party’s nomination.

A new Minnesota Poll conducted by the Star Tribune, MPR News and KARE 11 found Biden ahead of Trump 49% to 44% in the general election matchup less than six months ahead of Election Day. Biden fell just short of a majority, but 7% of Minnesotans said they are still undecided.

The poll also found that statewide, 53% of voters disapprove of the Republican incumbent’s job performance as president, compared with 45% who approve. Only 2% were undecided about Trump, reflecting a high degree of polarization heading into the fall election season.

Minnesota has emerged as a potential battleground state in November, with Trump and his re-election campaign invested in picking up the state’s 10 electoral votes after coming close in 2016. But Biden is coming off an unexpectedly strong win in Minnesota’s primary in March, and the last time a Republican presidential candidate carried the state was 1972.

The poll of 800 registered voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy from May 18-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. It comes as the nation’s attention has been focused on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It also followed recent news reports of an allegation of long-ago sexual misconduct by Biden, which he has denied.

The poll found wide splits between men and women, different age groups and different regions of the state. Biden holds a wide lead in Hennepin and Ramsey counties and a smaller lead in other Twin Cities counties, while Trump holds healthy leads in both southern and northern Minnesota.

Women favor Biden and disapprove of Trump in big numbers. Trump’s advantage with men is not as pronounced but still considerable. Voters under 49 back Biden by big numbers, while Trump carries those 50 and over.

“I think the past three and a half years have been kind of a nightmare, honestly,” said Rachel Halliday, a 41-year-old family therapist from Minneapolis who was polled. “Biden wasn’t my top pick but I will be happy to vote for him for sure.”

Halliday said she’s never liked Trump but that his handling of the coronavirus pandemic heightened her sense of crisis. “Things feel dangerous at this point,” she said.

Doug Wilson, a 59-year-old publishing company vice president from Maple Grove, supports Trump but said he doesn’t always like the president’s style. But Wilson said his top priority is economic recovery, and he thinks Trump is better prepared to lead the U.S. out of its COVID-driven financial downturn.

“Who knows how long this pandemic is going to last?” Wilson said. “We can’t just keep throwing money at it. We have to figure out how, economically, we’re going to turn things in the other direction.”

A Minnesota Poll last October that matched Trump against four Democratic presidential contenders, including Biden, found the former vice president with a significantly larger lead over Trump than he has now.

But Biden’s level of support remains nearly unchanged from October: It’s Trump who gained ground in the new poll, especially with men, Minnesotans who live outside the Twin Cities, and voters over 65.

“I like where President Trump has taken us,” said Susan Pfeifer, 75, a retired small-business owner who lives in Park Rapids. “I dislike the way he is confronted and blocked on everything he wants to do. I think he has turned some people around with the way he has handled this pandemic. He is not using scare tactics to describe it.”

In contrast to Trump, Pfeifer said, she has not appreciated the tone of White House medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. “If we listen to them we are going to be under Communistic rule and China will own us,” Pfeifer said.

Al Drewes, a 75-year-old retired heavy equipment operator and construction welder from Detroit Lakes, is squarely for Biden. “I’m a union man, and in my lifetime, when the Democrats are in office, that was always when I was doing best in the dirt-moving business.”

But Drewes said he socializes regularly with his son and his son’s friends, men in their 50s. “They all like Trump,” he said. “They’re looking at their phone every five minutes to check their 401(k). I’ve learned it’s best for me not to talk about politics.”

The poll found Biden with a wide lead among Minnesotans who earn less than $50,000 a year, while Trump leads with those who make more. One of Biden’s biggest advantages is support among college graduates.

The poll also reinforces the sense of two political parties with increasingly little common ground. Few Democrats are backing Trump and few Republicans support Biden.

Independents in the poll were almost equally split between Trump and Biden, with almost 1 in 5 still undecided. Trump’s disapproval with independents also outpaced their approval, though not by as large a gap as with the overall sample of voters in the poll.

Biden’s hefty lead in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and Trump’s continued advantage in rural parts of the state, suggests that voters in the outer ring suburbs and exurbs of the Twin Cities are poised to decide whether Minnesota backs four more years of Trump or helps put Biden in the White House.

Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413