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Why we voted the way we did
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Jim Ross of Eagan says his vote for Kerry was a vote to kick out the incumbent president. He says he's not happy with the direction of the country, and with the war in Iraq. (MPR Photo/Dan Olson)
While a majority of the country decided to re-elect President Bush, Minnesota voters stuck to their traditional roots and voted for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. It's been eight presidential elections since a Republican presidential candidate won Minnesota -- that was Richard Nixon in 1972. According to exit poll data, the desire to oust Bush may have driven a significant number of voters to the polls. "Anti" votes made up 30 percent of the total, and for every anti-Kerry vote cast, there were three anti-Bush votes.

St. Paul, Minn. — Minnesota, which is known for its high voter turnout, stayed true to form on Election Day. More than 77 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, making it the highest voter turnout since 1960.

Exit polling done by by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool Survey points to a handful of issues that may have played a factor in the outcome.

One-quarter of those surveyed say moral values were their top concern. The war in Iraq and the economy followed closely behind. When asked which quality the voter valued most in a candidate, the top-ranked response was the ability to bring about needed change.

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Image Voted for Bush

Jim Ross of Eagan says his vote for Kerry was a vote to kick out the incumbent president. He says he's not happy with the direction of the country, and with the war in Iraq.

"The whole mishandling of the so-called war on terror which went into a war for oil in Iraq and the general incompetence. There's no real domestic agenda," said Ross.

The Minnesota exit poll says 60 percent of those surveyed don't believe the war in Iraq is going well or is going somewhat badly. The poll surveyed 2,180 voters at 45 polling places across the state.

Voters who considered moral values as a critical issue broke strongly for President Bush. Three out of four of such voters say they voted for Bush. Scott Leake of Coon Rapids says he favored President Bush's values.

"The value of life for one. The abortion issue is a big deal to me," Leake said. "I also know that the value of life of our troops in Iraq is important too, but I value the life here too at home."

President Bush also received strong support in Minnesota and nationwide from people who say they attend church at least once a week. Bush's support among Catholics dropped 5 percentage points from the 2000 election. But his support among Protestants and other Christians increased 7 percent. That may show a stronger support from evangelicals. Dick and Phyllis Trabert of Eagan say religion played a role in their support for Bush.

"He's a good family man and a Christian. I agree, good family man, good Christian," they said.

The abortion issue is a big deal to me. I also know that the value of life of our troops in Iraq is important too, but I value the life here, too, at home.
- Scott Leake, Bush supporter from Coon Rapids

Eighty-four percent of those who said they were mostly concerned about the economy chose Sen. Kerry over President Bush. A large majority who felt the economy was doing poorly or not so good chose Kerry. Jan Lacosse of Duluth says she's concerned with the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries. "Our jobs are going out of the country. I have adult children, and it's effected their jobs and day care," said Lacosse.

Bush received higher poll results among those who said they thought the economy was in excellent or in good shape.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader received less than 1 percent of the Minnesota votes cast in Tuesday's election. In 2000, he received 5.1 percent of the vote. While the exit poll didn't ask specifically, it's likely that Minnesota's status as a battleground prompted many who voted for Nader in 2000 to choose Kerry this year.

Rich Cairn of Minneapolis voted for Nader four years ago, but switched to Kerry this year. He says there are many Green Party members and other independents who won't hesitate to switch their vote to help a candidate defeat their opponent.

"There's a lot of Greens who are not going to vote for the lesser of two evils, and that's always going to be true," Cairn said. "But when there's principles at stake, sure, we're willing to cross lines and vote for somebody else when we feel that's a strategic decision that we need to make."

The Bush and Kerry campaigns spent millions for campaign ads in Minnesota and made repeated trips to the state to woo undecided voters. The majority of the undecideds who made up their minds in the last month chose John Kerry.

A more startling figure is that all of those visits and campaign ads in the last days of the campaign did little to change the minds of most Minnesotans -- 77 percent say they had made up their mind over a month ago.

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