Poll: Bush gets high marks; Minnesotans divided on restrictions
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
October 17, 2001
A new poll shows President Bush's approval ratings have soared since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The survey, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and KARE-11 TV, shows 76 percent of Minnesota voters give Bush favorable marks. But while the public is united in its support of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, divisions emerge on how to combat terrorism on the home front.
In a poll conducted in July, 53 percent of Minnesota voters said President bush was doing a good or excellent job in office. Since then, that number has jumped to 84 percent. His unfavorable ratings have dropped.
Chris Dinderman, 37, exemplifies that trend. The independent contractor from North St. Paul was one of 625 likely Minnesota voters contacted late last week for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. He says his support for the president is based on Bush's handling of the terrorist attacks.
"I didn't vote for him. And I wouldn't have. I don't like a lot of what he stands for. But I think that in light what's happening he's kind of taken the bull by the horns, I guess. It got too close to home and somebody had to really act. I think he's done a good job so far," Dinderman said.
State Republican Party spokesman Bill Walsh says he's not surprised to see Bush riding high in a state that has historically leaned Democratic.
"In a war situation, the people of America rally around their president. The party is less relevant. And whoever the president is, we rally around him. I also think the president's been showing tremendous leadership. And he's being recognized for that," Walsh said.
The poll also finds overwhelming support for the U.S. military campaign against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and the ruling Taliban government.
Jim Broesder,60, of Adrian, Minnesota, is one of the 83 percent of respondents who favor the use of military force. Only 6 percent oppose it. "They've got to do something with those people. And this is the only thing they understand," he said.
"I would say the bombing action is the only way that he's going to get to those people. Putting men in there on the ground, I'm afraid, is going to be suicidal. The Russians found that out."
Even so, Broesder, a retired highway maintenance worker, says he'd support the use of ground forces and accept American casualties if necessary.
Kathlene Demars, 73, agrees. Demars is a retired department store worker from Edina. She, like most respondents, supports the current military campaign. But she's also wary of expanding police powers as the hunt for terrorist suspects intensifies at home. While 53 percent of respondents favor easing wire-tapping restrictions, a full quarter oppose it. And Minnesotans are equally divided over the use of national I.D. cards.
Demars says she's particularly concerned about the potential for singling out Arab- or Muslim-Americans. "If you can take an American citizen who happens to be from the Middle East to start with - we all came from some place at one time. That's what made the country great was accepting people for what the were not who they were," Demars said.
Forty-one percent of respondents say law enforcement agencies should be allowed to detain people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent for security or background checks. Forty-six percent oppose such a policy.
Bill Flanigan, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, says he's not particularly surprised by Bush's sudden popularity, or the divide over how balance civil liberties against domestic security. He says the situation is fluid, and could change as events bear out.
"We're learning an awful lot as these events unfold - anthrax and the public's reaction to something so totally different as a threat. We don't know where public opinion will go if that begins to unfold," according to Flanigan.
An overwhelming number of Minnesotans also support a federal takeover of airport security. Seventy-eight percent say they'd accept higher taxes or increased ticket prices to pay for the additional peace of mind.