Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Poll Finds Huge Partisan Gap on Issues

Is the biggest issue inflation or climate change? Depends on who you ask.

By - Aug 29th, 2022 02:45 pm
A summertime sun sets over the waters of Green Bay, as seen from Sunset Beach Park in Fish Creek in Door County. Photo by Brian Plunkett (CC BY 2.0)

A summertime sun sets over the waters of Green Bay, as seen from Sunset Beach Park in Fish Creek in Door County. Photo by Brian Plunkett (CC BY 2.0)

Beyond the “horse race” numbers of who may be leading in campaigns for the U.S. Senate and governor, a deeper look at the latest Marquette University Law School poll offered a fascinating look at the stunning difference in how Republicans, Democrats and political independents view issues.

Marquette’s Aug. 10-15 survey of 811 registered voters included this question: Which of the following nine issues are you “very concerned” about? The biggest differences:

-79% of Democrats surveyed rated climate change as their top concern, but only 8% of Republicans listed it – a huge gap. Republicans ranked climate change as their next-to-last worry.

-91% of Republicans ranked inflation as their biggest worry, which was more than twice the 42% of Democrats who cited it. It was fifth on Democrats’ list of concerns.

-77% of Democrats rated gun violence as a major problem, while 45% of Republicans did so. Gun violence was the second biggest concern of Democrats; it ranked sixth among Republicans.

-80% of Republicans ranked crime as their second biggest concern, significantly higher than the 53% of Democrats who listed it. Crime was the fourth biggest worry of Democrats.

-73% of Democrats listed abortion policy as a major concern, making it their third biggest worry. Only 39% of Republicans did so, ranking it seventh on their list of issues.

-72% of Republicans cited taxes as a major problem, ranking it their third biggest worry. But only 26% of Democrats ranked taxes as a problem; it ranked seventh on their  list.

“The differences in issue priorities reflects how the parties frame issues,” Marquette pollster Charles Franklin said last week.

These differences aren’t surprising, given how divided Wisconsin voters have been in national and state elections. For example, President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by 20,600 votes in 2020, out of 3.2 million votes cast. And Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won his first term by 29,300 votes in 2018, out of 2.6 million votes cast.

Wisconsin’s political independents will decide who wins Nov. 8 elections for U.S. Senate and governor, and which 2024 presidential candidate wins Wisconsin.

What did independents surveyed rate as their biggest concerns? Inflation, 67%; gun violence 59%; abortion policy, 53%; public schools, 50%; crime, 47%; taxes, 44%; climate change, 40%; illegal immigration, 34%, and coronavirus, 15%.

Franklin said leaders of both parties can craft their final messages to independent voters before Nov. 8. “Each party could pick an issue or two that are somewhat important to their party’s  voters but that also is a substantial concern for independents,” Franklin said.

“Those would be different, because Democratic and Republican concerns are different, but both could find something that might give leverage with independents,” he added. “Independents are interesting because some of their concerns are similar to Republican concerns  – gun violence is their second highest concern. “Or abortion as third highest for independents and third highest for Democrats, while seventh [highest] for Republicans”.

Overall, he added, “The issues that most motivate one party tend to be less important for the other party. Inflation, illegal immigration and climate change, for example.”

A few issues are “fairly important across parties,” Franklin noted. For example, public schools were listed as a concern by 60% of Republicans surveyed, by 53% of Democrats and by 50% of independents.”

One “interesting” example of differing worries is inflation, Franklin said. “We all pay the same at gas pumps and grocery stores, but Republicans are far more concerned, while Democrats rank inflation sixth. Why? Blame Biden and the Democratic Congress, or desire to discount how bad inflation is to protect your party’s image.

“Lots of motivated reasoning there on both sides.”

Inflation was the top concern of 67% of political independents, making it their biggest concern. That was midway between the 91% of Republicans who rated inflation first and the 42% rating assigned inflation by Democrats.

Tim Michels, the Republican candidate for governor, questioned Marquette’s latest poll, which suggested he was trailing Evers by a margin-of-error difference of 45% to 43%.

“There’s a class of people out there that does not talk to pollsters,” Michels told supporters, according to a Green Bay Press-Gazette story.

Michels added: “If the polls say we’re dead even right now, I believe in my heart that we are up at least 5 to 10 (percentage) points.”

But in a deeply divided swing state like Wisconsin, even a five point margin could be tough to achieve — for either party.

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at

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3 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Poll Finds Huge Partisan Gap on Issues”

  1. Keith says:

    Michels thinks his heart is more accurate than the Marquette poll. That sounds like something stupid Trump would say.

  2. nickzales says:

    Republicans are concerned with crime? Not when they are the ones doing it. Then they cheer and attack the FBI. They “back the blue” and cheer the violent assault on the US Capitol as a “normal tourist visit.” You can’t argue with irrational people and should not try. Come on Michaels, prove you live in Wisconsin. Your wife and kids do not but somehow you do? Yea, right.

  3. Rbrowne says:

    The poll omitted critical questions.

    Is the debt that our nation is incurring creating an unsustainable future for our children?

    Does the inequality that people experience here need to be corrected immediately?

    As an independent I would like those questions to be considered.

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