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Governor Ventura's Performance
October 8, 1999
Analysis | Poll Results | Poll Methodology | Story

Governor Jesse Ventura's remarks about religion in his Playboy magazine interview have sparked a strong reaction from Minnesota voters. Statewide, 86% disagree with Ventura's statement that "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers," while only 10 percent agree with him. A sizeable majority (73 percent) feel the remark about religion was inappropriate.

The fallout from Ventura's remarks have impacted his job-peformance rating. Statewide, 43 percent now rate Ventura's performance as "excellent" or "good" (down from 56 percent), while 31 percent rate it as "only fair," and 25 percent rate it "poor" (up from eight percent).

Ventura Job Performance

Poll Date Excellent Good Fair Poor Undecided
December '98 14% 55% 12% 3% 16%
April '99 12% 45% 24% 2% 17%
July '99 11% 45% 35% 8% 1%
October '99 7% 36% 31% 25% 1%

Only 30 percent of state voters now feel Ventura is a "needed breath of fresh air" (down from 49 percent), while those who feel he is an "embarrassment" has jumped from 16 to 43 percent.

Poll Date Fresh Air Embarrassment Too Soon/Don't Know
December '98 45% 3% 52%
April '99 54% 5% 41%
July '99 49% 16% 35%
October '99 30% 43% 27%

A majority (51 percent) now think Ventura is "not well prepared to govern, and his public comments often ... make matter worse." Only nine percent felt that way in April. Additionally, those feeling his "plain speaking style would improve government" has dropped from 62 to 29 percent.

Poll Date Speaks Plainly. Will improve government. Engaging, but doesn't know enough Not Prepared, Comments make matters worse Not sure
April '99 62% 23% 9% 6%
October '99 29% 18% 51% 2%

Half of Minnesota voters (50 percent) disagree with Ventura's views about the Navy Tailhook sexual harassment case, while only 24 percent agree. Voters appear less put off by Ventura's recent return to the wrestling ring. Statewide, 46 percent felt merely reflected his style, and 49 percent felt it was inappropriate.


QUESTION : How would you rate the performance of Jesse Ventura as governor: excellent, pretty good, only fair, or poor?

Option State Men Women
Excellent 7% 10% 4%
Good 36% 39% 33%
Fair 31% 28% 34%
Poor 25% 23% 27%
Undecided 1% - 2%

QUESTION: Which of the following statements comes closest to your point of view?

  • Governor Ventura is a needed breath of fresh air in state government.
  • Governor Ventura is an embarrassment to the state.
  • It is too soon to judge.
Option State Men Women
Fresh Air 30% 35% 25%
Embarrassment 43% 38% 48%
Too Soon 20% 20% 20%
Both/Neither 7% 7% 7%

QUESTION: More specifically, which of these statements comes closest to your point of view: (order rotated)

  • Governor Ventura knows what matters most to people in Minnesota and his ability to speak plainly on these issues will improve government in Minnesota.
  • Governor Ventura has an engaging personality that is fun to watch, but I don't really think he knows enough to govern well.
  • Governor Ventura is not well prepared to govern, and his outspoken public comments often serve to make matters worse.

Option State Men Women
Will Improve 29% 39% 19%
Engaging 18% 13% 23%
Will Make Worse 51% 46% 56%
Not Sure 2% 2% 2%

QUESTION: Do you think the media have been: (order rotated)

  • Too harsh on Governor Ventura
  • Treating Governor Ventura fairly
  • Not critical enough of Governor Ventura
Option State Men Women
Too Harsh 22% 23% 21%
Fairly 59% 62% 56%
Not Critical Enough 17% 15% 19%
Not Sure 2% - 4%

QUESTION : Governor Ventura was recently involved as a referee for a professional wrestling event. Which of these statements most closely reflects your opinion about that:

  • The event was simply a reflection of Governor Ventura's style and really has no bearing on his performance as governor.
  • Involvement in a wrestling event was inappropriate for the governor of the state.
Option State Men Women
Reflect style 46% 50% 42%
Inappropriate 49% 46% 52%
Not sure 5% 4% 6%

QUESTION: Governor Ventura recently provided an interview to Playboy magazine. Based on what you know about his comments in that interview, which of these statements most closely reflects your opinion?

  • The interview was simply a reflection of Governor Ventura's style and has little bearing on his performance as governor.
  • Some of the things he said were inappropriate for the governor of the state.

Option State Men Women
Reflects Style 19% 24% 14%
Inappropriate 73% 69% 77%
Not Sure 8% 7% 9%

QUESTION: More specifically, in that interview, Governor Ventura said "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers." Do you agree or disagree with this statement from the interview?

Option State Men Women
Agree 10% 15% 6%
Disagree 86% 82% 89%
Not Sure 4% 3% 5%

QUESTION: Governor Ventura later clarified his position to mean he was referring to his personal beliefs and meant no disrespect to others. Did this explanation make you more sympathetic to the governor, less sympathetic, or did it not matter?

Option State Men Women
More Sympathetic 13% 19% 8%
Less Sympathetic 36% 35% 36%
Did Not Matter 50% 46% 54%
Not Sure 1% - 2%

QUESTION: Also in the Playboy interview, Governor Ventura said he could understand, but did not condone, the behavior of Navy pilots in the sexual harassment case known as Tailhook. Do you agree or disagree with his statement.

Option State Men Women
Agree 24% 35% 13%
Disagree 50% 45% 55%
Not Sure 26% 20% 32%

The St. Paul poll was conducted October 5 - 6, 1999 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. A total of 608 registered Minnesota voters were interviewed by telephone. All stated they regularly vote in state elections.

Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges were utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect voter turn-out by county.

The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the "true" figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as a regional or gender grouping.

Sample Figures:
Men 302 (50%)
Women 306 (50%)

Region Interviews
Minneapolis/St. Paul 332 interviews
Rochester/Southeast 69 interviews
Southwest Minnesota 67 interviews
Northwest Minnesota 68 interviews
Duluth/Northeast 72 interviews

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Poll Copyright 1999, Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved