Minnesota Poll finds conflicting views of Sen. Al Franken


Fellow Democrats approve of the job that first-term DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken is doing, but the number of Republicans who are dissatisfied with him is on the rise.

That's one of the findings of the most recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. The newspaper story accompanying the findings concluded that Minnesota's junior senator is "a divisive figure" as he heads into the campaign leading up to the November election.

Franken won a 55 percent approval rating from voters. At the same time, Franken’s job disapproval rating rose to 34 percent, up from 29 percent last June. Franken’s numbers are highest in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where 68 percent approve of the job he is doing. In the suburbs, his approval rating drops to 58 percent. Outstate, that number falls to 42 percent. Conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., the poll surveyed interviewed 800 Minnesota adults Feb. 10-12, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Franken was elected in 2008 in one of the tightest elections in state history, winning after a recount found that he had several hundred votes more than former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Franken was one of eight Democrats who captured Senate seats that had been held by Republicans. Those senators are now defending themselves for supporting Obama's Affordable Care Act.

While Franken has sought to downplay his background as a comedian, he has relied friendships from his days in show business to assist with fundraising. Actor Jon Hamm, star of "Mad Men," will be featured at a Franken fundraiser in Minneapolis on Feb. 21. Last year, talk show host Conan O'Brian held a fundraiser for Franken in Los Angeles.

In precinct caucuses earlier this month, st. Sen. Julianne Ortman won a non-binding straw poll of Minnesota Republicans, beating businessman Mike McFadden, who has raised far more in campaign contributions. McFadden had a war chest of $1.7 million at the end of 2013. Ortman has raised $250,000. Ortman has said she would abide by the party's endorsement process, but McFadden has not ruled out a primary run if he does not capture the GOP endorsement.

Other Republicans in the race include st. Rep. Jim Abeler, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, Monti Moreno and Harold Shudlick. Independent candidate Hannah Nicollet, a former backer of Sen. Ron Paul, has also declared her candidacy.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune reported its latest polling regarding incumbent DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Heading into the November campaign, Dayton, 67, showed the highest job approval rating of his term. The poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans approve of the job that Dayton is doing, with 29 percent saying they disapprove. That ranking is up one percentage point from June, when Dayton’s approval rating stood at 57 percent and his disapproval number was 31 percent.

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