ST. CLOUD (AP) -- More Minnesotans think the state is heading in the wrong direction than the right one, according to an annual survey by St. Cloud State University.
The poll found a sharp reversal in optimism compared to the past two years. Only 38 percent of Minnesotans in the survey replied the state is going in the right direction, while 43 percent it was going the wrong way.
Last year, 56 percent felt things were going the right way and 27 percent said wrong. And in 2000, 70 percent said right and only 16 percent said wrong.
The university annually gauges Minnesotans' outlook and views on political issues and candidates. The latest poll was conducted over a two-week period ending on Sunday and interviewed 613 Minnesotans.
It also found a virtual tie in support for three of the four major candidates in the governor's race. Among likely voters, Republican Tim Pawlenty had support from 30 percent of those surveyed, while Democrat Roger Moe had 27 percent and Independence candidate Tim Penny both had 26 percent. The margin of error on the poll was 3.9 percentage points. The Green Party's Ken Pentel trailed with 2 percent and the poll found 14 percent undecided.
That result is similar to other polls done this fall about the governor's race. However, most of the questioning for the St. Cloud State poll was done before last Friday's plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and doesn't reflect changes in sentiment that may have occurred as a result of that event.
On Tuesday, a Minnesota Poll by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis showed Pawlenty and Moe with slightly more support and Penny with slightly less. While that poll was conducted after the crash, it was done in just one day, a shorter period than normal, and among a smaller group of people than normal, raising uncertainty about its comparability to previous polls.
The St. Cloud State poll found the largest number of respondents, 23 percent, believe education is the most important problem facing the state. Fourteen percent answered the budget; 13 percent said economic issues; 10 percent, taxes; and 7 percent, roads or highways.
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