Minnesota poll: Felony conviction should disqualify presidential candidates, most say

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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By Dana Ferguson, Minnesota Public Radio News

Most Minnesotans think a felony conviction should disqualify anyone running for president, poll results released Tuesday morning show.

About 55 percent of those surveyed said a person convicted of a felony should not be eligible to run for the nation’s highest office. A little more than 54 percent believe former President Donald Trump received a fair trial recently in New York, according to the poll commissioned by MPR News, KARE 11 and the Star Tribune.

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Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts related to his hush money case. The live interview poll of 800 Minnesota voters was conducted last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy, after Trump’s May 30 conviction. It carries a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

President Joe Biden beat Trump in Minnesota by about 7 percentage points in 2020. It was a far bigger gap than four years prior when Trump came up fewer than 2 points short of then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Both candidates view Minnesota as a key to their path to the White House.

Forty-four percent of those polled said that Trump didn’t get a fair trial. Republican voters and those who said they’d vote for the former president showed the strongest sense of doubt about the convictions. The same groups were more likely to say someone convicted of a felony should be able to run for president.

Beth Rigby, a biologist from Minneapolis, was surveyed in the poll and said Trump’s convictions should block him from seeking the office.

“The felonies he’s been convicted of were tampering in an election and trying to keep things from the public,” Rigby, 42, said. “I think that’s a pretty serious disqualifier for a presidential candidate.”

Rigby said she plans to vote for Biden because she feels he’s the most qualified to hold the office and will uphold democracy in the United States.

John and Nancy Nicklasson, of Litchfield, are 71. They said the criminal proceedings were conducted unfairly. The retirees said they plan to vote for Trump despite the result.

“Anybody else other than his last name, they wouldn’t have even pressed charges against him,” John Nicklasson said.

His wife agreed and said it is being overblown ahead of the presidential election.

“Something’s going to happen after the election, and they’re going to pardon him or whatever,” Nancy Nicklasson said, “and it’ll be too late then, because people won’t see the truth.”

Public opinion aside, the Constitution is silent on the issue and would not bar someone with a criminal history from serving as president.

The Nicklassons weren’t part of the poll but they lined up with the bulk of Republicans and Trump supporters who said that Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.

Overall, 68.5 percent of those surveyed said the result was legitimate while 25.4 percent said it wasn’t. Six percent said they were unsure.

Exhaustive reporting following the 2020 election has disproved claims of widespread voter fraud.

The survey also asked about the candidates’ ages and whether they were a concern for voters. The majority — 52 percent — said both candidates were too old to hold the office. Twenty-five percent said Biden was too old for the role, while 1.6 percent said Trump was too old. Another 20 percent said neither was too old to hold the presidency.

Biden is 81 years old and Trump is 77.

“I personally think they’re both too old to serve,” 35-year-old Nathan Johnson, of Litchfield, said. Johnson said he leans conservative but has qualms about both candidates.

man smiles

Nathan Johnson outside a Hamburger Day event in Litchfield, last week. He says the advanced ages of both major party candidates are concerning.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

“I think we should probably have a maximum age limit on the presidency not to discriminate against people of that age, but I just think both of them seem to show signs of decline, physically and mentally. So I don’t love that that’s going to be the leader of the free world.”

Keith Nelson, a 35-year-old bank auditor from Litchfield, agreed that Americans should consider a rule that sets a cap for candidate age.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that if there’s an age minimum to get to be president or senator or anything, there should be an age maximum,” Nelson said.

man stands in parking lot

“I’ve been saying for a long time that if there’s an age minimum to get to be president or senator or anything, there should be an age maximum,” says Keith Nelson, a bank auditor from Litchfield.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

“If we have term limits for president, we have term limits for Congress. You know, the framers of the Constitution didn’t put that in there because they thought the public could be reasonable enough not to elect someone who’s 75,” he added.

Retired lawyer Jim Strommen of Victoria said that age isn’t the disqualifying issue for him. He said he’ll vote for Biden because he thinks he’s better equipped than Trump to do the job.

“I know he’s getting on in years, but there are no other Democratic candidates, viable candidates for president,” Strommen said. “And I do not support former President Trump, for many reasons, and I came to that conclusion a number of years ago.”

Overall, the live-interview poll found Biden was preferred by nearly 45 percent of respondents compared to about 41 percent for Trump in the race for president. That’s considered a dead heat given the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Editor’s note: For more poll details and methodology around the poll, check out MPR News’ sister organization, the APM Research Lab.