Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Massive Gender Gap in Gov’s Race

Walker does terrible with women. But Burke does far worse with men. Why?

By - Oct 2nd, 2014 09:50 am
Mary Burke

Mary Burke

We already know Wisconsin is most partisan, most politically divided state in America. But the latest Marquette University Law School poll suggests we have an equally colossal gender gap. The race may come down to one simple factor: which sex gets to the polls.

The latest Marquette poll shows that among likely voters, men prefer the male candidate, incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, by 62 percent to 34 percent for Burke. That’s a stunning margin. Women voters meanwhile prefer the female challenger, Mary Burke by 54 percent to 40 percent. This might make for some tense dinner table conversations between husbands and wives. Still, when MU pollster Charles Franklin looked at single versus married women, in a July poll, he found Walker’s gender gap was largely among single, divorced or widowed women.

Franklin calls the current current Walker advantage among men “quite large,” but cautions “it may not hold through election day. Gender gaps bounce around quite a bit.”

He points to the 2012 race for U.S. Senate between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson, where Thompson’s edge with men ranged from +25 percent to -2 percent and everywhere in between, while Baldwin’s edge with women ranged from +1 percent to +17 percent.

Still, as Franklin notes, exit polling after the election showed Thompson had a five point advantage with men and Baldwin had a 15 point advantage with women. Similarly, presidential victor Barack Obama had a significant advantage with women voters in Wisconsin.

In short, we’re likely to see a gender gap in the governor’s race, though I doubt Walker will have as large an edge with men as the current poll shows.

Why the huge bump in that number this time around? The charge that Burke plagiarized language in her jobs plan may be one reason. On its face, the issue seems like very small potatoes. Buzzfeed quoted four paragraphs lifted from other jobs plans in Burke’s 49 page plan, but it was all the sort of stuff you might find in any such plan. Moreover, Burke campaign consultant, Eric Schnurer, was largely quoting himself from other job plans he’s prepared.

But the media jumped all over it and the Burke campaign, instead of dismissing the whole thing as unimportant, fired Schnurer. Burke, when asked to define plagiarism (a classic gotcha ploy by Fox 6), looked like a deer in the headlights, stammering a barely intelligible answer. The footage provided a perfect attack ad for Walker’s campaign, which you can find here, along with a Burke ad responding.

The latest MU poll found 54 percent of registered voters said they had read or heard about the jobs plan controversy, and 18 percent said it made them less likely to vote for her.

Does the issue have legs? I’d guess not, because other issues will soon supplant it. But it’s certainly provided the best attack ad to date for Walker in this campaign. His attack on her and the Trek company was a huge mistake. Meanwhile, Burke’s team had run the strongest ads, including one attacking the governor with the tagline “Scott Walker’s not working for you” and the ad comparing Walker negatively to Ronald Reagan.

I think the strength of Burke’s ads help explain why she closed the gap on Walker and was in a dead heat for four months. But Walker’s team has gone back to basics, with powerful ads claiming he helped the state make a dramatic comeback and touting the impact of his tax cuts. The result can be seen in yesterday’s poll showing a five-point margin for Walker, suggesting the momentum of the race has shifted his way, though it’s still, with margin of error considered, a statistical tie.

Walker’s negatives are so high the race is likely to remain close. Which underlines the significance of the gender gap. Franklin’s polls have consistently shown voters rank Burke higher than Walker when it comes to whether the candidate “cares about people like you.” In the current poll, 46 percent said it was true of Burke and 38 percent said it wasn’t, while 44 percent said it described Walker and a whopping 54 percent said it didn’t. (Burke had a higher percentage with no opinion on this question.) As a rule, candidates seen as more caring are likely to do better with women voters.

By contrast the MU polls have consistently shown voters are more likely to see Walker as someone “able to get things done.” In the latest poll, 62 percent said this about Walker and just 40 percent said it describes Burke.

What made Burke such a potentially potent candidate is that she is a businesswoman and philanthropist, someone who could combine caring about you with getting things done. For the Walker campaign, nothing is more important than chipping away at her business background, which is why the Buzzfeed story on her jobs plan was such a godsend.

For Burke the numbers continue to point one way: she needs a big turnout from women, particularly single women, or she can’t win the election. The gender gap will decide who is Wisconsin’s next governor.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

38 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Massive Gender Gap in Gov’s Race”

  1. PMD says:

    It’s totally sad and totally predictable that all this trivial nonsense dominates headlines in the race for governor. Burke and plagiarism, Walker and short plane rides, what Burke did between 1993 and 1995, was it really Lambeau Field in Walker’s campaign ad. It’s silly season again. Thank you media.

    Also, Walker is going to win. I won’t be voting for him and it saddens me, but he is going to win. I think he’d win even if he was charged in the John Doe before election day.

  2. John Kaufman says:

    Yes, a caring gap. Maybe better to call it a compassion/economic reality gap, for single women in particular, especially those with children, likely have a better grasp on why sharing wealth and access to affordable health care are community-supporting benefits.

    Also interesting is the large margin of support in the state for the Affordable Care Act and increasing the minimum wage, both of which Walker opposes and Burke favors.

    In the quiet privacy of the voting booth/cubicle, more married women than in the poll may vote for Burke (and Susan Happ.) More men, too.

    The college vote will also be crucial, a segment that may not poll well but could be mobilized quickly.

  3. PMD says:

    Does anyone here really believe Burke has a chance? Months and months of John Doe headlines along with stories about the state’s weak economy, especially compared to the rest of the Midwest, and Walker now has a 5-point lead. Everything just seems to bounce right off him.

  4. Mike Bark says:

    I agree with PMD, Walker is going to win this and the reason is that the Democrats are not putting up a good candidate. Burke’s resume is at best thin and there are a lot of gaps in it. Furthermore, at some point it’s hard to win being the Anti-something. Mitt Romney found that out in 2012 and Tom Barrett found that out in the recall.

    To me, the Trek attack makes a lot of sense as well. One of the big issues in this election (or at least I think it will be all over her ads) will be whether or not we should raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour or so. In my opinion, it’s hard for Burke to champion that cause or make a dent with it when her company is sending so many jobs overseas.

  5. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    PMD must be getting worn down by all the pro-Walker GOP-aganda that controls Milwaukee media. Outside of bubble-world, not only does Burke have a chance, it’s at least a coin-flip chance.

    It’s funny how people are thinking that Marquette Poll is the voice of God. The only reason Walker had a 5-point lead was because there were 4.6% more Republicans answering than Democrats. That will NOT be the electorate that goes to the polls- even Walker himself just admitted there will be more Dems than GOPs in Wisconsin, and you don’t think Dems will show up to take out Walker?

    Also remember that MU is linked to the J-S, and they’ve been going all-out on the “jobs plan” story while ignoring real stories like WEDC’s audit and an exploding budget deficit (JournalComm is a big reason Walker doesn’t get as damaged as he should- and Bruce knows it). This reality will be brought home in the next month.

    The real story of the MU Poll is that the Guv election will all come down to turnout. If GOPs outnumber Dems, Walker wins. If Dems turn out like its a presidential election, Burke wins. Which explains why Walker is relying in voter ID and other racist dog-whistles. It’s a 2-for-1!

  6. PMD says:

    I’m hardly in bubble world. Did you just not read my post above lamenting the media coverage in the campaign and its focus on trivial issues?

    Isn’t the MU poll considered pretty credible and reliable? And isn’t overall enthusiasm trending the GOP’s way?

  7. Mia says:


    I think that the MU is pretty credible and reliable. The problem is we have political campaigns spinning the data to their benefit. The data is the data. Charles Franklin also said that gender gaps tend to swing from poll to poll. I don’t doubt that Walker will have an advantage among men. I think that will continue. However, I think people read the 5% and think that means Walker is leading. That’s not what the poll is really saying. In fact, Charles Franklin added a disclaimer that says just because the margin of error is 4.1 and Walker is ahead by five, it does not mean he is outside the margin of error. Actually, for Walker to be outside the margin of error, he has to be ahead by 8. 4.1 also means that Walkers support can be overstated by 4.1 and Mary Burke’s can be understated by 4.1, which means it could just as easily be Mary Burke 49.1 and Walker 44.9, or somewhere in between there.

    Of course, what the Walker campaign and conservative media WANTS people to think is that Walker is gaining. If people don’t think Mary Burke has a shot they won’t vote, so that is a tactic that the conservatives use to “depress the vote.” As for her plagiarism, I think that is just noise. All things, considered, an political novice such as Mary Burke is keeping it a little closer than Walker would like. Also, Walker jumped ahead of Barrett by 6 one month before the election, but remember that election was in June–one month after the Dems got through their primary. The Dems got through their primary in August, which is more likely to explain Burke’s advantage in August, then her losing ground due to plagiarism. All the attention was on the Dems in August, and now the general election has leveled back to where the support at this time SHOULD be. That is why we should pay attention to the author’s mention of Tommy Thompson vs Tammy Baldwin. Tammy closed the gender gap. I don’t think Walker is going to widen the gender gap, so it’s more likely going to get smaller.

    Another thing I’d like to point out is that you should actually divide the 5 by half. That is, Walker leads more by 2.5%, I say that because if 1% more people support Burke in the next poll, Walker’s lead drops by 2. (50-1 = 49, Walker) (45+1 =46, Burke). We’d essentially be back to early September where Walker only led by 3 among likely voters. In other words, I think the plagiarism is what Nate Silver would refer to as “statistical noise.” Moreover, if Burke would improve her showing among women by even 2%, it would almost erase Walker’s “lead completely.” Women make up 51-52% of the electorate, so Mary actually has an advantage among women voters and why Walker is suddenly trying to play up his women-friendly creds.

    Word of advice: the numbers don’t lie. Read the crosstabs, as that really gets into the details of what is happening. Jake is correct that there is a higher sample of Republicans. If you go to the cross tabs and look at the leaners, I think the count was 284 Rep (inc) leaners, and 251 Dem. As Franklin says, it boils out to turnout.

  8. Allison says:

    Bruce-It’s the independent voters who decide elections in this state, and in the MU poll Walker is leading among independents 53%-40%. That is what has helped him open up a lead. The voters in the middle prefer Governor Walker, just as they preferred President Obama two years ago. Both Walker and Obama come across as very likable to regular people. They are authentic. Both Burke and Romney come off as kind of weird, not really in touch with average people. They’re trying too hard to sound like regular folks. Burke based her whole campaign on a jobs plan that was not even hers. That’s a major problem. She said her plan could bring all these great jobs to Wisconsin, but her plan was just a rehash of a bunch of other loser campaigns. Also, she was part of the whole Jim Doyle disaster, another problem. The blame game on the left has already started. Start with Mike Tate picking a lousy candidate.

  9. PMD says:

    I get what you’re saying Mia, but I still think he will win. Burke had months of John Doe and weak state economy headlines to take the lead, and it never happened. Now, barely more than a month before the election, Walker takes a small lead among likely voters. I just don’t believe Burke is a strong enough candidate to beat him. Yes turnout will be key, and the recent enthusiasm trend favors the GOP. We’ll see if that changes over the next month.

  10. Mia says:


    I’d just like to refer you to this article. Don’t pay attention to the source, which is obviously conservative, but the fact that Obama’s problem with independents and men didn’t translate into a win:

    P.S. I was referring to the Recall in my previous post.
    P.S.S. It pays to dig deeper than what the media reports. This is why we have the Nate Silvers of the world to do what the media can’t…or won’t.

  11. PMD says:

    What does Nate Silver say about Walker/Burke? I know the Real Clear Politics average of all the polls has Walker in the lead. Again, I don’t think anyone here is blindly buying everything the media says, so it’d be great if people could quit with the condescending advice regarding media scrutiny.

  12. Mia says:


    Of course Mary has a chance. Conservatives thought this would be a blowout. Obama was also a novice and made his bitter and gun remark. He survived it. Republicans will claim that plagiarism is more serious than it really is. I’m not buying it.

  13. Mia says:

    I’m not trying to be condescending. What I was doing was showing you my thought process and how I talk myself off the ledge.

  14. Mia says:

    Have you read the cap times and their new model? I’d consider that, as Dr. Jones is analyzing the state specifically.

  15. PMD says:

    I don’t think the plagiarism charge will hurt Burke. I think it’s already old news and not the type of thing to sway many voters. Don’t you wonder why she wasn’t able to take a lead despite all the John Doe and weak state economy headlines? Isn’t Walker’s big lead among independents a little worrisome?

    I haven’t read the Cap Times or their new model. What does it state?

  16. Kyle says:

    I’m with PMD on this one. I just don’t see this turning out any differently than the recall election. Walker has his supporters who will turn out for him, and he has those who dislike him immensely who will turn out to vote against him. Burke isn’t a more exciting candidate than Barrett was, and her refusal to take a firm stance on most issues isn’t giving people a reason to rally behind her. I don’t see the Democrats as more likely to turn out than they were during the recall, and I don’t see the Republicans as less likely to turn out to defend Walker than they were last time. There might be a few crossovers who voted against the recall, but I suspect this Walker election will be remarkably similar to the last two.

  17. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Plagiarism wasn’t the problem, the fact that she had no idea what was in her plan, could not talk to it and the plans were dumb. that was problem.
    If burke had stepped up, called PC and went over the plan to show that she not only knew what she was talking about but thought it a good plan. She could not do that in fact when asked about it lightning struck her dumb. Where are her plans for crime, education in Milwaukee??

  18. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Why would married women with kids vote for Burke. She has no idea what the average woman has to go though to raise a family with obama raising prices on energy, food etc and cutting her salary, wasting away her savings. Burke has silver foot in mouth.

  19. PMD says:

    Fair points WCD. Has either candidate talked about crime in Milwaukee?

  20. PMD says:

    WCD, fighting for the working folks and not the rich! If the GOP understands anything, it’s what the average woman has to go through to raise a family and pay her bills. Oh, wait…

  21. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    GOP is the middle class. Want to compare multimillionaire Burke and family to Walker and family. Scott and Tonette have worked hard and their parents harder.
    The dems have all the big money from Buffett, Gates, JP Morgan etc. All the banks, money changers back the dems cause they spend more money and have been rewarded by Obama and co. The poor working slobs like us have lost the most with high prices, no jobs and lower salaries.
    Under Obama the rich have gotten much richer while the rest of us have parttime jobs.

  22. PMD says:

    WCD, if the GOP is the party of the middle class, you should tell the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Wisconsin’s own Reince Preibus. Here is what he said about the GOP after they conducted the “autopsy” following Romney’s loss:

    -Stop talking only to themselves and become better acquainted with everyday Americans.

    -Stop being so reflexively defensive of corporate executives and the super wealthy.

    The GOP’s Growth and Opportunity Project notes the party’s tendency to only appeal to the wealthy and its difficulty in talking to and connecting with low and middle-income voters. So I’d say you are a little removed from reality on this one WCD.

  23. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Look at red counties in this state, not many Buffets, Gates, Burkes, Laydens live there.

  24. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    PMD- When you put all the info together, this race is up for grabs. I used Huffpost’s Pollster site, which used to belong to Charles Franklin, and totaled up the 14 polls over the last 6 months (dating from when Burke was a known quantity) in this race. Result? Walker 47.7-Burke 46.6

    And what did Marquette’s Registered voter poll say? Walker 46-Burke 45. And what a surprise, that turnout model was basically even between Dem and GOP instead of GOP +4.6%.

    Which goes to Bruce’s point that the Walker campaign’s strategy is to drive up Burke’s negatives and make Wisconsinites too shaky to pull the trigger on ending Walker’s tenure in office, and drive down Dem enthusiasm. It’s a similar strategy to what Bush’s campaign had in 2004, combined with posing about being “optimistic” and a “resolute, strong leader” (and just like in Bush’s case, neither are true with Walker, but enough dopes can be suckered by it).And a second full Walker term would be every bit the disaster Bush’s second term would be.

    By the way, what was the result 10 years ago? Bush won a full term under questionable circumstances, but barely lost Wisconsin in 2004. Turnout will decide which of these two scenarios play out in Wisconsin in 2014.

  25. blurondo says:

    Does any other state have a college drop-out as governor?

  26. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Funny, best you can do. He has done pretty well, followed the example of bill Gates.

  27. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Course I do not think that any state has a gov. that has been on unemployment the last 7 years after trying to find herself, chasing guy snowboarding around world on Daddy’s money.

  28. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Dumb Dohnal- What did Scott Walker invent or create in college? Other than lies and sketchiness that the Marquette Tribune called “unfit for office?”

    And what has he invented in his career ever? ALEC boys like Walker do as they’re told by the people pulling the strings. There’s not an original idea going around in that guy’s head, other than new ways to grift.

  29. PMD says:

    I know it’s close Jake. I am not disputing that. I just believe Walker will win, and that a stronger candidate would have benefited a lot more from all the recent John Doe and weak state economy headlines.

    WCD, isn’t Walker the dreaded “career politician?” What private sector successes has he had? And the fact that not many rich people live in some red state counties in Wisconsin does not mean it’s perceived as the party of the middle class and poor. Sorry.

  30. tim haering says:

    Nice analysis, Bruce. Most salient point I saw was that Burke’s distaff support is “largely among single, divorced or widowed women.” Supposing these women were told Burke was never married or engaged nor has any children. I think that support would soften along with her “cares about people like me” numbers. Burke is not like us, how could she care more about us than Walker, who is more like us? The closer you look, the more you see Burke as a well-meaning dilettante who helped run a small family bike builder [not a job she was formally vetted for]. And why has this self-described “businessperson” never told us how her meager business experience will help her run a more business-like govt services bureaucracy — something entirely outside her management experience? Tippy-toe out on the limb, I predict mass voting-booth epiphanies and Walker wins by more than his recall.

  31. tim haering says:

    and, Bruce, I didn’t think about this until just now. But I wonder how much of Walker’s MU poll support from men is really anti-Burke sentiment. Being a man, knowing men, I suspect Walker’s male support could hold.

  32. PMD says:

    Yeah Walker’s close ties to super wealthy donors and tax cuts for the rich really show how much he cares about average folks. He’ll pander to them when necessary, but he doesn’t care about them.

  33. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    PMD more really stupid statements. The GOP has always been the party of the middle class in Wisconsin. There really is not any “upper class” in Wis. Look at our governors and where they cam from. Walker a preachers kid, Tommy a dirt farmer from Elroy, Irish kid who didnt have indoor plumbing till 52. Lee was from German working class home in Milwaukee and Knowles was from New Richmond where they had some chicken restaurant.
    Even the few wealthy that we have like Menard came from working class roots. My family homesteaded in Maribel in 1856 lived in one room log house for 50 years, no plumbing till they got electricity in 50’s. Farmed with horses till 55.
    The GOP has always been that way.
    While the Dems have had more rich and super rich for years. If you look at the lists headed up by Buffet and Gates you will see that all the money people are dems cause the dems spend more. They make money on every transaction. The GOP has always attracted the small business people cause the dems, like Milwaukee, chase them away with their nutty talk. Milwaukee cty. has done more to damage Milwaukee than anyone.
    People started heading out to Waukesha in 60’s when the nuts from the VietNam era and the anti freeway people took over the dems. No, the dems have outraised the GOP for years, Obama was first campaign to hit 2 billion or more. McCain spent about 200 million or so and was trounced by the GOTV of the dems with their big money.

  34. PMD says:

    How they were raised is beside the point WCD. It’s how they govern. It’s their policies and who they benefit and work hardest for. You are delusional or in total denial if you believe the GOP is for the working class or middle class, in this state or elsewhere. They pander to them and use social issues to drive them to the polls, but they don’t care about them. I don’t think the Democrats are much better unfortunately.

  35. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    PMD typical Leftist talking points. Knowles took one room schools and built education. Tommy was best governor after LaFollette, great growth improvements in roads, education etc. 750,000 jobs created. Dreyfus was kind of nowhere cause of the mess of Carter, nothing happened. Scott took giant mess that Doyle created and turned it around in one year and has given tax cuts plus needed money to the small businesses that are the core of this state. WE have few big businesses except soem home grown ones Like Menards, Johnson Control, Harley, Bradley etc. That is where the jobs are.
    That stupid attitude of the Left is why the businesses fled to Waukesha and out state leaving behind the Left in control of crime filled nutty leaders.

  36. PMD says:

    You are rambling and mostly off topic, as per usual. And come on, you regurgitate right-wing talking points as if it’s your food supply, so you might want to ease up on accusing others of sharing “talking points.” I’ve also never come across an elderly person who loves the word “stupid” so much.

  37. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Waste of time to discuss problems with Left. they create problems destroy lives and Milwaukee, US with their programs and continue them so will not bother with you anymore.

  38. PMD says:

    That’s fine. I have to get back to destroying Milwaukee and the United States anyway. That is very time-consuming work, as you can probably imagine.

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