A Tale of (Two?) States: Demographic Support for Republican Gubernatorial Candidates in MN and WI Strikingly Similar

The 2006 gubernatorial races in Minnesota and Wisconsin had key similarities: 1-term incumbents defending their seats with job approval rankings hovering around 50%. Pundits viewed seats in both states to be very vulnerable.

Despite these similarities, the candidacies of Republican challenger Mark Green in Wisconsin and GOP incumbent Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota were quite different. Green’s platform was much more closely aligned with conservatives and the ‘religious right’ while Pawlenty flaunted more ‘moderate credentials.’ However, upon examining exit poll data conducted in each state, the level of support attributed to republican candidates in the Gopher and Badger States were quite striking across several key demographics.

For starters, Green and Pawlenty each received 48% of the white vote in their respective states and nearly an equal level of support from males (50% for Pawlenty, 49% for Green).

Voters in different age groups also spoke with one voice across the two states: Pawlenty and Green received nearly identical support of 18-29 year-olds (41% for Pawlenty, 40% for Green), 45-59 year olds (46% for each) and voters 60 years and older (44% for each). Voters age 30-44 voted for 52% for Pawlenty and 50% for Green.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates fared equally poorly among those earning less than $50,000 per year (36% for Pawlenty, 35% for Green) and fairly well among those earning $50,000 per year or more (51% for Pawlenty, 50% for Green).

Religious voter support for these republican candidates was also quite similar in each state: 53% of Protestants went for Pawlenty and 53% went for Green; Catholics votes 49% for Pawlenty and 48% for Green. Those who attended church more than weekly lent nearly identical support to Pawlenty (69%) and Green (70%).

Pawlenty and Green each received 8% of the Democratic vote in their respective states, while voters who strongly approved of George W. Bush’s job performance came out strong for both Pawlenty (93%) and Green (92%).

Pawlenty (34%) and Green (35%) similarly suffered among voters who felt the war in Iraq was extremely important to their vote. Each candidate fared much better among those who stressed terrorism (51% support to each) and the economy (51% support to each) as very important issues for their vote.

While the political climate in Minnesota and Wisconsin is fairly similar overall, it is interesting that republican candidates with noticeably different platforms would fare so similarly among key demographic groups in their respective states.

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