Marquette University
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New Marquette Law School Poll finds Biden leading Trump in head-to-head presidential match in Wisconsin

Biden is most popular choice in the Democratic primary field, while full sample of voters split sharply by partisanship on Trump and the economy

By - Sep 4th, 2019 01:15 pm
Joe Biden. Photo is in the Public Domain.

Joe Biden. Photo is in the Public Domain.

MILWAUKEE —With 14 months to go until the 2020 presidential election, former Vice President Joe Biden is favored by 51 percent and President Donald Trump by 42 percent among Wisconsin registered voters in a potential match. Four percent say they would not support either candidate and 2 percent say they don’t know. This is the first Marquette Law School Poll of 2019 that has asked head-to-head vote choices for potential 2020 nominees.

In a match with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sanders receives 48 percent and Trump 44 percent, with 5 percent supporting neither and 2 percent who don’t know.

When matched against Trump, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the choice of 45 percent and Trump is the choice of 45 percent, with 5 percent supporting neither and 5 percent saying they don’t know.

Sen. Kamala Harris is supported by 44 percent to Trump’s 44 percent, while 6 percent support neither and 6 percent say they don’t know.

A summary of the general election matches is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: General Election Matches

Match Pct Match Pct Match Pct Match Pct
Joe Biden 51 Bernie Sanders 48 Elizabeth Warren 45 Kamala Harris 44
Donald Trump 42 Donald Trump 44 Donald Trump 45 Donald Trump 44
Neither 4 Neither 5 Neither 5 Neither 6
Don’t know 2 Don’t know 2 Don’t know 5 Don’t know 6

 

Table 2: First and second choice in the Democratic primary sample (Democrats, independents who lean Democratic and independents without a partisan lean).
Response First Choice Second Choice
Joe Biden 28 18
Bernie Sanders 20 13
Elizabeth Warren 17 20
Pete Buttigieg 6 10
Kamala Harris 3 11
Andrew Yang 2 2
Cory Booker 1 3
Kirsten Gillibrand 1 1
Amy Klobuchar 1 2
Tom Steyer 1 0
Steve Bullock 1 0
Beto O’Rourke 1 1
Tulsi Gabbard 0 2
John Delaney 0 1
Michael Bennet 0 0
Tim Ryan 0 0
Julián Castro 0 1
Marianne Williamson 0 0
Bill de Blasio 0 0
Wayne Messam 0 0
Joe Sestak 0 0
Someone else (VOL) 1 0
Would not vote (VOL) 2 1
Don’t know 13 13
Refused 1 0

The poll was conducted Aug. 25-29, 2019. The sample included 800 registered voters in Wisconsin interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Democratic presidential candidate preference items were asked of Democrats, independents who lean Democratic, and independents who do not lean to either party. That sample size is 444 with a margin of error of +/-5.3 percentage points.

Four issue-related questions were asked of half the sample (Form A) and four were asked of the other half-sample (Form B). Questions on Form A have a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points. Questions on Form B have a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points.

Democratic Presidential Primary Candidates

Among Democrats, independents who lean Democratic, and independents who do not lean to either party (hereafter “the Democratic primary sample”), Biden receives the most support for the April 2020 presidential primary. Biden is the first choice of 28 percent, followed by Sanders at 20 percent, Warren at 17 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 6 percent. Harris receives 3 percent, while all other candidates receive 2 percent or less.

The complete results for the Democratic primary are shown in Table 2.

Among the Democratic primary sample, favorability of five candidates is shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Favorability ratings of five candidates among Democratic primary sample

Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Joe Biden 70 20 8 2
Bernie Sanders 63 21 11 5
Elizabeth Warren 53 12 27 7
Pete Buttigieg 37 7 45 11
Kamala Harris 35 14 41 10


Economic outlook and issues

Wisconsin registered voters hold a net positive view of the performance of the economy over the past 12 months, with 37 percent saying the economy has improved over the past year, 25 percent saying it has worsened, and 34 percent saying it has stayed the same.

By contrast, the outlook for the next year is not net positive, with 26 percent saying the economy will improve, while 37 percent think it will get worse and 33 percent saying the economy will remain the same.

The outlook for the coming year among those polled in 2019 is less favorable than among those polled in 2018 as more respondents now see the prospect of a worsening economy. The August poll is the second in 2019 that has seen net pessimism about the economic outlook. The previous net negative reading was in January 2019, during the federal government shutdown.

In 2018, the average future outlook was 14.7 percent net positive, while in 2019 the average outlook has been net negative -3 percent.

The full results since February 2018 are shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Outlook for the economy over next year

Poll Date Get better Get worse Stay the same Don’t know Net
2018-02-25 37 20 38 5 17
2018-06-13 35 25 37 3 10
2018-8-15 38 25 31 5 13
2018-9-12 37 24 34 5 13
2018-10-3 42 20 32 7 22
2018-10-24 38 25 29 8 13
2019-1-16 29 34 30 6 -5
2019-4-3 34 27 34 5 7
2019-8-25 26 37 33 5 -11

Forty-five percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, with 53 percent disapproving. That is little changed from April when 46 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved.

Forty-nine percent of those polled approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 50 percent disapprove.

Partisanship strongly affects views of both the economy and Trump’s handling of it. In Table 5, 41 percent of Republican and independents who lean Republican think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 42 percent think it will stay the same and 12 percent think it will worsen.

In contrast, among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, 12 percent think the economy will improve, 23 percent think it will remain the same, and 63 percent think the economy will worsen.

Twenty-one percent of independents who do not lean to a party expect the economy to improve, 37 percent think it will stay the same and 33 percent expect an economic downturn.

Table 5: Economic Outlook (Next 12 Months) by Party Identification

Get better Get worse Stay the same Don’t know
Republican 41 12 42 5
Democrat 12 63 23 2
Independent 21 33 37 9

Table 6 shows approval of Trump’s handling of the economy by party. While Republicans and Democrats are near-mirror images of each other, independents on balance disapprove of Trump’s handing of the economy.

Table 6: Trump Economic Job Approval by Party Identification

Approve Disapprove Don’t know
Republican 88 11 0
Democrat 9 89 1
Independent 43 51 6

Tariffs on Chinese imports were raised on Sept. 1, after the poll was completed, although the tariff increase was announced by Trump on Twitter on Aug. 23 before interviews began on Aug. 25. Respondents were asked if imposing tariffs or fees on products imported from other countries helps the U.S. economy, hurts the economy or doesn’t make much of a difference either way. Thirty percent say tariffs help the economy, 46 percent say they hurt the economy, and 17 percent say tariffs don’t make much difference either way.

Table 7 shows views of tariffs by party identification, including leaners as partisans.

Table 7: Impact of tariffs on economy by party identification

  Helps US economy Hurts US economy Doesn’t make much difference Don’t know
Republican 47 21 22 8
Democrat 12 72 13 3
Independent 34 47 15 3

Gun legislation and opinion

This poll was completed after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 and in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, but before the mass shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas, on Aug. 31. Opinion on potential changes to gun laws has changed little from previous polling on gun issues.

Table 8 shows the trend in support and opposition to universal background checks for firearm sales.

Table 8: Trend in support or opposition to background checks

Poll Date Support Oppose Don’t know
2013-3-13 81 17 2
2013-5-9 71 26 2
2016-1-24 85 12 2
2018-02-25 81 16 2
2019-8-25 80 16 3

Note: a Prior to 2019 options were ‘Favor’ or ‘Oppose’

Households with guns are only a little less supportive of background checks than those without a gun. Seventy-five percent of respondents from households with a gun support background checks, while 88 percent of those without a gun do so. Those who refuse to say if there is a gun in the household are more opposed to background checks. Six percent of respondents refused to say if there was a gun in the household. These results are shown in Table 9.

Table 9: Support or oppose background checks by gun in household (August 2019)

Gun Household Support Oppose Don’t know
Yes 75 22 3
No 88 8 3
Refused 69 27 5

“Red-flag” laws that would allow police to take away guns from people who have been found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others are supported by 81 percent and opposed by 12 percent. Eighty-one percent of respondents in households with a gun support such red-flag laws as do 86 percent of those without a gun in the household. Those refusing to say if there is a gun in the household are less supportive of red-flag laws, as shown in Table 10. This question has not been asked before in the Marquette Law School Poll.

Table 10: Support or oppose red-flag law by gun in household (August 2019)

Gun Household Support Oppose Don’t know
Yes 81 13 7
No 86 9 6
Refused 46 25 29

Support for a ban on “assault-style weapons” is lower than support for background checks or red-flag laws. Table 11 shows the trend in support or opposition to a ban on assault-style weapons, and Table 12 shows the views of residents in households with or without a gun.

Table 11: Trend in support or opposition to ban on `assault-style weapons’

Poll Date Support Oppose Don’t know
2013-3-13 54 43 3
2018-02-25 56 40 3
2019-8-25 57 40 3

Note: a Prior to 2019 options were ‘Favor’ or ‘Oppose’

Table 12: Support or oppose ban on `assault-style weapons’ by gun in household (August 2019)

Gun Household Support Oppose Don’t know
Yes 49 50 2
No 71 26 3
Refused 16 66 14

Feelings toward the National Rifle Association (NRA) were measured on a 100-point “feeling thermometer” where 100 means very warm or favorable feelings, zero means very cold or unfavorable feelings, while a score of 50 means neither favorable nor unfavorable feelings. Respondents can assign any score between 0 and 100.

Overall, the average score for the NRA was 50.2.

Average feelings toward the NRA are shown in Table 13 for men and women in urban, suburban and rural areas.

The average rating of the NRA is the approximately the same for urban and suburban men, and several points higher among rural men. Women in urban areas are about 10 points less favorable to the NRA than are urban men. Suburban women are 12 points less favorable than suburban men. Women in rural areas, however, are equally favorable to the NRA as are rural men.

Table 13: Average ‘feeling thermometer’ score for the National Rifle Association by gender and urban-suburban-rural residence

Urban Suburban Rural
Male 52.3 51.7 57.8
Female 41.7 39.7 58.4

Views of a diverse society and immigrants

Sixty-five percent of respondents think an increasingly diverse population of different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live. Four percent think this makes the U.S. a worse place, and 27 percent think it doesn’t make much difference. When last asked in October 2016, 53 percent said an increasingly diverse population made the U.S. better, 9 percent said it made the country worse, and 35 percent said it made little difference.

Asked to rate immigrants on the 0-to-100 point “feeling thermometer,” the average score given to “legal immigrants” was 78.8, while the average rating for “illegal immigrants” was 42.5.

The average thermometer score given to “Muslims” was 63.1, while that given to “evangelical Christians” was 58.6. Muslims were rated on average between 59 and 68 on the “feeling thermometer” by each of four religious groups, while evangelicals were rated over 75 by evangelicals, but at 33 by those without a religion. Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic respondents gave evangelical Christians similar 59 and 61 average ratings respectively.

Views of racial disparity

A majority of respondents, 53 percent, agree that there is a lot of discrimination against blacks in the U.S., while 45 percent disagree.

A larger majority, 62 percent, disagree with a statement that racial disparities are only a matter of effort and that “if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.” Thirty percent agree with a statement that black disadvantage is a matter of effort.

A minority, 41 percent, agree with a statement that blacks have gotten less than they deserve over the past few years, with 51 percent disagreeing with that statement.

A majority of respondents, 58 percent, say that Hispanic people have the same chance of getting ahead as people from most other ethnic backgrounds. Twenty-seven percent say Hispanic people have a worse chance of getting ahead, and 10 percent say they have a better chance.

Water-quality issues

Forty-three percent of respondents say they are very or somewhat concerned about the safety of their community’s water supply, while 57 percent say they are not too concerned or not at all concerned.

Fifty-two percent say the state of Wisconsin is doing an excellent or good job protecting the safety of public drinking water, while 39 percent say the state is doing a fair or poor job.

A substantial majority of respondents, 74 percent, say the state should provide financial support for replacing lead pipes between water mains and residences because of the health risks posed by lead pipes. Sixteen percent say this cost should be paid entirely by the owner of the residence.

Opinion of the governor and legislature

Governor Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 54 percent, with disapproval at 34 percent. Ten percent say they don’t have an opinion. In April, 47 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved, and 15 percent lacked an opinion.

Approval of the job the Wisconsin legislature is doing is 52 percent and disapproval is 38 percent, with 8 percent saying they don’t know. In April, 50 percent approved, 38 percent disapproved, and 11 percent lacked an opinion.

State of the state

Fifty-five percent of respondents say the state is headed in the right direction, while 37 percent say it is off on the wrong track. In April, 52 percent said the state was going in the right direction and 40 percent said it was on the wrong track.

Table 14 presents the favorability ratings of elected officials in Wisconsin and the percentage of respondents who haven’t heard enough or say they don’t know.

Table 14: Favorability ratings of elected officials

Favorable Unfavorable Haven’t heard enough Don’t know
Tony Evers 49 35 11 5
Tammy Baldwin 44 40 13 3
Donald Trump 42 53 1 3
Ron Johnson 40 29 25 6
Scott Fitzgerald 19 20 49 12
Robin Vos 15 20 52 13

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone, Aug. 25-29, 2019. The margin of error is +/-3.9 percentage points for the full sample.

The Democratic presidential candidate preference items were asked of Democrats, independents who lean Democratic and independents who do not lean to either party. That sample size is 444 with a margin of error of +/-5.3 percentage points.

Four questions were asked of half the sample (Form A) and four were asked of the other half-sample (Form B). Questions on Form A have a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points. Questions on Form B have a sample size of 400 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. (The small difference in margin of error is due to rounding of the 2nd decimal point after weighting the half-samples.)

Form A questions were right direction or wrong track for the state and three items on water quality issues. Form B questions were approval of the state legislature and three gun-related issues.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 46 percent Republican, 45 percent Democratic and 8 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 26 percent Republican, 28 percent Democratic and 46 percent independent.

Since January 2017, the long-term partisan balance, including those who lean to a party, in the Marquette poll has been 45 percent Republican and 45 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. Partisanship, excluding those who lean, has been 30 percent Republican and 29 percent Democratic, with 40 percent independent.

The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results, and breakdowns by demographic groups, are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data.

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