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New Marquette Law School Poll finds Wisconsin governor’s race remains statistical dead heat

The governor’s race remains statistical dead heat.

By - Sep 17th, 2014 01:20 am

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 46 percent of all registered voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke also receiving 46 percent support in the Wisconsin governor’s race. Another 5 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while 1 percent say they will vote for someone else.

Among likely voters, Walker receives 49 percent and Burke 46 percent, with 4 percent undecided and fewer than 1 percent saying they will vote for someone else. Likely voters are those who say they are certain to vote in November’s election.

The results for both registered and likely voters are within the poll’s margin of error. The September poll interviewed 800 registered voters and 589 likely voters by landline and cell phone from Sept. 11 to 14. For the full sample of 800 registered voters the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of 589 likely voters is +/- 4.1 percentage points.

This is the fourth Marquette Law School Poll in a row with governor’s race results inside the margin of error, indicating a very close election with no clear front-runner. Since the most recent Marquette Law School Poll, in August, Walker has gained ground among likely voters while Burke has improved among registered voters. Walker trailed Burke by 2 points among likely voters in August but now has a 3-point advantage. Among registered voters in August, Walker had a 3-point advantage, but registered voters now show a tie.

In the race for attorney general, among registered voters, Democrat Susan Happ receives 39 percent and Republican Brad Schimel 38 percent, with 20 percent saying that they are undecided or don’t know for whom they will vote. Among likely voters, Schimel receives 42 percent to Happ’s 41 percent, with 16 percent yet to choose a candidate. Both results are inside the margin of error for the poll. In August, Happ held a 40-33 lead among registered voters and a 42-32 lead among likely voters.

Shifting enthusiasm

According to Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin, much of the shift between the August and September polls, and the differences between likely and registered voters, can be accounted for by shifting involvement by partisans.

“In July and August, Democrats were more likely to vote than were Republicans, producing an advantage for Burke among likely voters,” Franklin said. “But in the September poll, it is Republicans who have an advantage in enthusiasm. Eighty percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote in November, compared to 73 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents. In August, 82 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents were certain to vote.”

Similarly, 67 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats say that they are “very enthusiastic” about voting in November, as do 47 percent of independents. In August, 59 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents said they were “very enthusiastic.”

“Elections are about both candidate preference and turnout,” Franklin said. “Changes in either can shift elections.”

Differences in partisan enthusiasm were also reflected in the composition of this month’s sample. Republicans hold a 1-percentage-point advantage among registered voters polled, with 29 percent identifying themselves as Republicans and 28 percent saying that they are Democrats. A total of 41 percent say that they are independent. This is the first time in 24 Marquette Law School Polls that Republicans have held an edge among all registered voters. Among likely voters, Republicans have a 32 percent to 28 percent advantage over Democrats, with 38 percent independent. This is the fourth time the GOP has had an edge among likely voters in the Marquette Law School Poll, which began in 2012. In August, Democrats had a 4-point advantage among registered voters and a 6-point margin among likely voters. Across all Marquette polls in 2013 and 2014, Democrats have averaged a 4-point advantage among registered voters and a 3-point advantage among likely voters.

“It is unusual to see a 5-point net shift in partisan composition,” Franklin said. “People should be appropriately skeptical since it is always possible this sample is simply an outlier. However, the shift to more Republicans and fewer Democrats occurred across all regions of the state and most demographic groups, demonstrating that it was not a localized difference in response rates.”

Photo ID for voting

Just as a federal appeals court ruling reinstated the Wisconsin legislature’s requirement of a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, the poll finds 61 percent of registered voters favor the photo identification requirement, while 35 percent oppose it. The federal ruling was handed down this past Friday, after interviewing for the poll began on Thursday, but there was no significant variation in support by day of interview. In seven polls since 2012, support for voter photo ID has averaged 62 percent while opposition has averaged 35 percent, with little change from poll to poll.

Partisans differ on photo ID, with 87 percent of Republicans favoring it and 12 percent opposing it. Among Democrats, 33 percent favor and 62 percent oppose the requirement. Among independents, 61 percent favor and 34 percent oppose the ID requirement.

Jobs

Perceptions of job creation in the state have divided the gubernatorial candidates and divide partisan voters as well. Forty-two percent of registered voters say that the state is lagging behind other states in job creation, while 37 percent say that Wisconsin is adding jobs at about the same rate. Thirteen percent say it is adding jobs faster than other states. In August, 48 percent said the state was lagging, 34 percent said it was moving at the same rate as other states and 8 percent said it was creating jobs faster than other states.

Among Democrats, 76 percent say the state is lagging in job creation while 19 percent say it is keeping up or doing better than other states. Among Republicans, 81 percent say Wisconsin is keeping up or doing better and 11 percent say it is lagging behind. Forty-nine percent of independents say the state is keeping up or better and 42 percent say it is lagging. Independents shifted the most from August, when 38 percent said keeping up or better and 50 percent said lagging. In August, 75 percent of Republicans said keeping up or better and 14 percent said lagging. Among Democrats there was virtually no change from August, when 75 percent said lagging and 19 percent said keeping up or better.

On Governor Walker’s 2010 campaign pledge to create 250,000 jobs in four years, 84 percent say the state will fall short of that number, while 11 percent believe it will be reached. When last asked in March 2014, 80 percent said the state would fall short and 13 percent thought the goal would be reached.

Among Republicans, 73 percent say that the state will fall short while 20 percent say that the goal will be reached. Ninety-four percent of Democrats say the goal will not be reached while 3 percent believe it will be. Among independents, 85 percent say the goal will not be reached, while 10 percent say it will.

Twenty-nine percent of those polled say that the jobs pledge is very important in deciding how they will vote, 35 percent say it is somewhat important, 20 percent say not very important and 15 percent say it is not at all important. Among Republicans, 10 percent say very important, 38 percent somewhat important, 27 percent not very and 24 percent not at all important. For Democrats, 54 percent say very important, 31 percent somewhat important, 10 percent not very and 4 percent not at all important. Independents fall in between, with 24 percent saying very important, 36 percent somewhat important, 23 percent not very and 15 percent not at all important.

State budget

In this September poll, 41 percent of registered voters say the state budget is in better shape than a few years ago, 25 percent say about the same and 27 percent say worse shape. In August, 45 percent said better shape, 26 percent about the same and 22 percent said worse shape. In January 2014, 49 percent said better, 26 percent the same and 20 percent said the budget was in worse shape.

Direction of the state

Among registered voters, 54 percent say that the state is headed in the right direction while 42 percent say that the state is off on the wrong track—unchanged since the August poll.

Among registered voters, 49 percent approve of the way Walker is handing his job as governor while 46 percent disapprove and 4 percent say they don’t have an opinion. In August, 47 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Images of the candidates

Burke is viewed favorably by 36 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 35 percent, while 29 percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about her. In August, 33 percent viewed her favorably, 32 percent unfavorably and 35 percent did not have an opinion.

Walker is viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent, with 5 percent not holding an opinion. In August, he was viewed favorably by 48 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent, with 4 percent not offering an opinion.

Asked if “cares about people like you” describes Burke, 48 percent say it does while 34 percent say it does not, with 17 percent saying they don’t know. For Walker, 47 percent say this describes him while 50 percent say it does not, with 3 percent lacking an opinion. In August, 43 percent said “cares about people like you” describes Burke and 35 percent said it does not, with 21 percent unable to say. For Walker in August, 45 percent said “cares about people like you” describes him while 50 percent said it does not, with 4 percent unable to say.

When it comes to “able to get things done,” 44 percent say this describes Burke while 35 percent say it does not and 20 percent were unable to say. For Walker, 64 percent say he is someone who is able to get things done while 31 percent disagree, with 5 percent unable to say. In August, 43 percent said Burke can get things done, while 32 percent said that did not describe her and 24 percent were unable to say. For Walker in August, 68 percent saw him as able to get things done with 28 percent disagreeing and 3 percent unable to say.

Asked if Burke has been clear enough about what she would do as governor, 42 percent say she has, while 48 percent say she has not and 10 percent say they don’t know. For Walker, 57 percent say he has been clear enough, while 39 percent say he has not and 4 percent don’t know.

Attorney general candidates and issues

The candidates for attorney general are only beginning to become known to registered voters. Seventy-three percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t have an opinion of Susan Happ, while 86 percent lack an opinion of Brad Schimel. In August, 82 percent lacked an opinion of Happ and 87 percent lacked one for Schimel. Happ is viewed favorably by 12 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent, compared to August when 12 percent were favorable and 7 percent unfavorable. For Schimel, 8 percent have a favorable view and 6 percent an unfavorable view, while in August 8 percent were favorable and 5 percent unfavorable.

At the end of his eight years as attorney general, J. B. Van Hollen is also relatively unfamiliar to registered voters: 51 percent say they don’t know enough or lack an opinion of him. Twenty-six percent have a favorable view of him and 22 percent an unfavorable view.

The question when to defend state statutes in court has been an issue both for Van Hollen as attorney general and for the candidates to succeed him. Asked if “the state attorney general should appeal when a federal court strikes down a state statute or a provision of the Wisconsin constitution or use his or her judgment as to whether an appeal is likely to be successful,” 31 percent say the attorney general should appeal while 54 percent say the attorney general should use his or her judgment as to whether an appeal is likely to be successful, with 13 percent saying they don’t know.

On the issue of legalizing use of marijuana, 46 percent support legalization while 51 percent oppose it. In March, 42 percent supported and 52 percent opposed legalization.

School voucher expansion

When asked about expanding the statewide private school voucher program, 18 percent say they favor removing limits on how many students can receive vouchers. The total is currently capped at 1,000 students (outside of Milwaukee and Racine, which have separate voucher programs). Twenty-one percent would increase the limit but keep some cap on the size of the program, while 19 percent would keep the current limit and 38 percent would eliminate the statewide program entirely. Those results change little when the question includes the statement that the cost of vouchers would come out of state support for public schools, in which case 14 percent favor unlimited voucher enrollments, 20 percent would increase the current limits but retain a cap, 22 percent would keep the current limit of 1,000 students and 38 percent would eliminate the expanded voucher program.

Health care reform

Wisconsin registered voters continue to view the new federal health care reform law unfavorably, with 50 percent having an unfavorable view and 40 percent favorable. In August, 53 percent held an unfavorable view and 36 percent favorable.

When asked what to do about the health reform law, 10 percent say keep it as it is, 50 percent say keep the law but improve it, 19 percent say repeal it and replace it with a Republican alternative and 18 percent say repeal it with no replacement. These views are little changed since March 2014, when the question was last asked.

A total of 61 percent say the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, while 29 percent oppose accepting the expansion and 9 percent say they don’t know. In August, 58 percent supported expansion and 29 percent opposed, with 12 percent saying they didn’t know.

Transportation funding

With transportation funding facing shortfalls at both state and federal levels, voters were asked how the state should pay for transportation, road building and road maintenance. Thirty percent of registered voters would be willing to increase taxes and fees, 5 percent would continue to borrow to fund road building, 13 percent would reduce construction and maintenance and 42 percent would take money from other areas of the budget. Those areas were not specified in the question.

Kenosha casino

Fifty percent of registered voters say the governor should approve a proposed new casino in Kenosha, while 39 percent say the governor should reject that proposal and 9 percent say they don’t know. In August, 49 percent supported and 35 percent opposed the casino, with 14 percent saying they didn’t know.

John Doe investigation

In the wake of recent releases of court documents related to the John Doe investigation, 74 percent say they have heard of the investigation while 24 percent have not, unchanged since July. Of those who have heard, 59 percent say it is “just politics” while 37 percent say it is “really something serious.” In July, 54 percent said it was just politics and 42 percent said it was something serious.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Beginning in 2012, the poll has provided highly accurate estimates of election outcomes, in addition to gauging public opinion on a variety of major policy questions.

This poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, Sept. 11-14, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 589 likely voters. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 4.1 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.

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