New Marquette Law School Poll finds tight races for Wisconsin Governor, U.S. Senate seat
Jobs, schools, health coverage are most important issues to state voters
MILWAUKEE — A new Marquette Law School Poll of Wisconsin voters finds a tight race for governor following last week’s statewide primary elections. Among likely voters (that is, those who say they are certain to vote), incumbent Republican Scott Walker receives 46 percent, Democrat Tony Evers receives 46 percent and Libertarian Phil Anderson 6 percent. Only 2 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean to a candidate.
Among likely voters in the race for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat on the ballot in November, 49 percent support the incumbent, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and 47 percent support Republican Leah Vukmir, while 3 percent say they lack a preference or do not lean toward a candidate.
Among all registered voters surveyed in the poll, the race for governor remains tight, with Walker at 46 percent, Evers at 44 percent and Anderson with 7 percent.
There is a wider margin among all registered voters in the Senate race, with Baldwin receiving 51 percent and Vukmir 43 percent.
Awareness of Evers and Vukmir has increased among registered voters since the last Marquette Law School Poll in July. Forty-six percent lack an opinion of Evers, down from 60 percent in July. For Vukmir, 48 percent lack an opinion now, compared to 66 percent in July.
Evers is viewed favorably among 38 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 27 percent. Among all registered voters 31 percent have a favorable view and 23 percent an unfavorable opinion.
Vukmir has a 30 percent favorable rating and a 29 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters while among registered voters 25 percent rate her favorably and 26 percent rate her unfavorably.
Few respondents lack opinions of the incumbents. Among all registered voters, 5 percent lack an opinion of Walker and 17 percent have no opinion of Baldwin. For likely voters, 4 percent have no opinion of Walker and 11 percent have no opinion of Baldwin.
Walker is viewed favorably among 49 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 47 percent. Among all registered voters 49 percent have a favorable view and 45 percent an unfavorable opinion.
Baldwin has a 46 percent favorable rating and a 42 percent unfavorable rating among likely voters while among registered voters 43 percent rate her favorably and 40 percent rate her unfavorably.
The poll was conducted Aug. 15-19, 2018. The sample included 800 registered voters in Wisconsin interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. For likely voters the sample size is 601, and the margin of error is +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Ten issue questions were asked of half the sample. The state issues have a sample size of 411 and a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points. The national issues have a sample size of 389 and a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percentage points. The half-sample items are listed at the end of this release.
Ranking state priorities
When asked the most important issue facing the state, 24 percent of registered voters pick jobs and the economy, 22 percent choose K-12 education and 19 percent say health coverage is their most important issue. No other issue reached double digits as “the most important,” although the condition of roads ranked fourth, with 9 percent of registered voters selecting it.
When voters were asked for their second-most-important issue, the condition of roads rose to the top three most-frequent answers, with K-12 education first at 18 percent, jobs and the economy at 17 percent, the condition of roads at 16 percent and health coverage at 15 percent.
The full set of the-most-important-issue responses is shown in Table 1.
Table 1: The most important issue facing Wisconsin
|Most important||2nd most important||1st or 2nd|
|Jobs and the economy||24||17||41|
|Condition of state roads, highways and bridges||9||16||25|
|Something else not on list||9||7||16|
|Prisons and the criminal justice system||6||8||14|
|State aid to local government||1||5||6|
|The UW System||2||4||6|
Fifty-three percent of Wisconsin registered voters see the state as headed in the right direction while 41 percent think the state is off on the wrong track. In July, 52 percent said right direction and 42 percent said wrong track.
Walker’s job approval among registered voters stands at 48 percent, with 45 disapproving. The trend in approval in 2018 is shown in Table 2. Among likely voters, 50 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.
Table 2: Scott Walker Job Approval Trend in 2018 Among Registered Voters
Asked if they think the state’s public schools are in better, the same or worse shape now than they were a few years ago, 15 percent say better shape now, 34 percent say about the same and 44 percent say schools are in worse shape now.
Voters say they would rather increase spending on public schools than reduce property taxes, by a 61 percent to 32 percent margin. In June, 59 percent preferred higher school spending to 35 percent who preferred lower property taxes. Opinion on this has shifted since the question was first asked in March 2013, when 49 percent preferred to reduce property taxes while 46 percent favored increased spending for public schools. The full trend on this issue is shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Trend in property tax vs school spending opinion, 2013-2018
|Cut property taxes||Increase school spending|
Thirty-five percent of voters say Walker has not paid enough attention to the issues of prisoner abuse at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons, while 12 percent say he has done all he should on this issue. A substantial 49 percent say they have not heard enough about the issue to have an opinion.
A majority (73 percent) say they would favor eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of non-violent offenses in order to allow judges to make sentencing decisions on a case-by-case basis. Nineteen percent oppose such a change.
Opinion is more closely divided on mandatory minimum sentences for violent offenders, with 50 percent in favor of eliminating mandatory sentences while 40 percent prefer to continue mandatory sentences.
Eighty-seven percent support expanding job training programs for inmates while in prison, while 9 percent are opposed.
Ninety percent say the state should help offenders released from prison find jobs, while 6 percent are opposed to this.
Views of President Trump
President Trump has a 45 percent approval rating with 51 percent disapproving among registered voters. In the previous Marquette Law School poll, in July, his approval was 42 percent with 50 percent disapproving. Partisans are deeply divided on Trump’s job performance.
Table 4: Trump job approval by party ID
How has Trump changed the GOP: for better or worse?
Asked if Trump has changed the Republican party—and if so, how—26 percent say he has changed it for the better, while 44 percent say he has changed it for the worse and 23 percent say he hasn’t changed it much either way.
Partisans have differing views of Trump’s effect on his party.
Table 5: How Trump has changed GOP by party ID
Does Trump keep promises, care about you?
Trump is seen as keeping his campaign promises by 55 percent of respondents and as not having done so by 41 percent, with 4 percent saying they don’t know.
Partisan differences are shown in Table 6.
Table 6: Is Trump keeping promises by party ID
|Is not keeping||10||70||44|
Thirty-nine percent of respondents say that Trump cares about people like them, while 57 percent say he does not. Differences by party are shown in Table 7.
Table 7: Does Trump care about people like you by party ID
|Does not care||18||92||62|
Trump approval on immigration and Russia
On Trump’s handling of the issue of immigration, 41 percent approve while 54 percent disapprove.
Forty-one percent favor building a wall along the Mexico border while 54 percent oppose a wall. Four percent say they don’t know.
On Trump’s handling of relations with Russia, 37 percent approve while 52 percent disapprove.
The state of political conversations
Forty percent of Wisconsin registered voters say they talk about politics with family and friends more than once a week, and an additional 24 percent say they have such conversations about once a week. Fourteen percent say they talk politics once or twice a month, 13 percent talk a few times a year and 9 percent never talk about politics with family and friends.
Conversations about politics with coworkers are often avoided altogether, with 46 percent saying they never have these conversations and 11 percent saying they do so only once or twice a year. Fourteen percent talk about politics with coworkers more than once a week, and an additional 13 percent do so about once a week. Twelve percent say they talk politics with coworkers once or twice a month
Contrary to the idea that voters today live in “information bubbles,” hearing only opinions that agree with their own views, respondents report that their political conversations include a substantial mix of opinions. In talking to family and friends, 48 percent say they talk to about an equal mix of people with liberal and conservative views, and 41 percent say their conversations are an equal mix of pro-Democratic and pro-Republican opinions.
Seven percent say the family and friends they talk with are almost all liberal, 15 percent say they are mostly liberal, 19 percent say they are mostly conservative and 10 percent say they talk almost exclusively to conservatives.
In partisan terms, 13 percent say the family and friends they talk with are almost all Democrats, 15 percent say they are mostly Democrats, 13 percent say they are mostly Republican and 14 percent say they talk entirely with Republicans.
Thirty-one percent of respondents say they have tried to convince someone to vote for or against a particular candidate. Eighteen percent say there is someone they have stopped talking to due to political disagreements. When asked the week before the recall election in 2012, 35 percent said they had stopped talking to someone.
Sixty-one percent say marijuana should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol while 36 percent oppose legalization. When previously asked in July 2016, 59 percent supported legalization and 39 percent were opposed.
Forty-four percent think the state is paying more than the Foxconn plant is worth, while 41 percent think the plant will provide at least as much value as the state is investing in the plant. Fifteen percent say they don’t know if the plant will be worth it or not. In the July poll, 46 percent said the state was paying too much and 39 percent said it would provide at least as much value as the state was investing.
A majority (61 percent) of registered voters statewide believe the Foxconn plant will substantially improve the economy of the greater Milwaukee area, while 27 percent do not think it will and 11 percent say they don’t know. In the July poll, 53 percent said the Milwaukee area would benefit while 33 percent did not think so.
When asked if businesses where the respondent lives will benefit from Foxconn, 32 percent say businesses will benefit directly from the Foxconn plant, while 61 percent say their local businesses will not benefit and 7 percent don’t know. In the July poll, 30 percent said their local businesses would benefit, while 58 percent did not think so.
Effects of tariffs and of trade agreements
Thirty-four percent think increased tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will improve the U.S. economy while 48 percent think tariffs will hurt the economy. Seventeen percent say they don’t know. In the July poll, 24 percent said tariffs would improve the economy while 55 percent said tariffs would hurt the economy.
Partisan differences in views of tariffs are sharp, with a majority (60 percent) of Republicans saying tariffs are good for the U.S. economy, 19 percent saying they are bad for the economy and 22 saying they don’t know. A large majority of Democrats say tariffs are bad for the economy and a majority of independents see tariffs as a bad thing for the economy.
Table 8: View of tariffs by party ID
|Good for Econ||60||6||33|
|Bad for Econ||19||74||55|
On free trade agreements in general, 55 percent think these agreements have been a good thing for the U.S. economy, while 29 percent think they have been bad for the economy. Fourteen percent say they don’t know.
The Mueller investigation and Russian interference
Confidence in the Mueller investigation’s ability to be fair and impartial has become more polarized since June 2017, with growth in both “a great deal of confidence” and in “no confidence at all” categories. Twenty-eight percent say they have a great deal of confidence while 29 percent say they have no confidence in the investigation. The trend in confidence since June of 2017 is shown in Table 5.
Table 9: Confidence in Mueller Investigation Trend, 2017-2018
|A great deal||Some||Only a little||No confidence at all||Don’t know|
In this poll, 5 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in the Mueller investigation while 53 percent have none at all. Among Democrats, 52 percent have a great deal of confidence while 7 percent have none at all. Thirty percent of independents have a great deal of confidence while 26 percent have none at all.
Wisconsin voters say they are very (35 percent) or somewhat (16 percent) concerned about possible Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, while 16 percent are not too concerned and 31 percent are not concerned at all.
Table 10: Concern over Russia interference in 2016 election Trend, 2017-2018
|Very concerned||Somewhat concerned||Not too concerned||Not at all concerned||Don’t know|
Republicans feel less concerned about Russian influence, with 53 percent not at all concerned, 23 percent not too concerned, 15 percent somewhat concerned and 9 percent very concerned. Among Democrats there is more concern, with 63 percent very concerned, 25 percent somewhat concerned, 5 percent not too concerned and 6 percent very concerned. Independents fall in between, with very concerned (38 percent), somewhat concerned (12 percent), not too concerned (18 percent) and not at all concerned (31 percent).
Enthusiasm for voting
Overall, 63 percent of registered voters say they are very enthusiastic about voting in this year’s elections, with 24 percent somewhat enthusiastic and 12 percent either not very or not at all enthusiastic.
Among Republicans, 69 percent are very enthusiastic, while among Democrats 67 percent are. Among independents, 56 percent say they are very enthusiastic about voting this year. In the July poll, 62 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats were very enthusiastic, as were 51 percent of independents.
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. 15-19, 2018. The margin of error is +/-4 percentage points for the full sample.
For likely voters the sample size is 601 and the margin of error is +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Ten issue questions were asked of half the sample. The state issues have a sample size of 411 and a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points. The national issues have a sample size of 389 and a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percentage points. State half-sample issues include Foxconn (3 items), priority for property tax cuts or public schools, and marijuana legalization. Half-sample national issues are tariffs, free trade, confidence in the Mueller investigation, concern over Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether to build a wall along the Mexican border.
The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 45 percent Republican, 43 percent Democratic and 11 percent independent. The long-term total for the previous 46 statewide Marquette polls, with 40,952 respondents, is 43 percent Republican and 47 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the current sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 31 percent Republican, 29 percent Democratic and 38 percent independent, compared to the long-term totals of 27 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 41 percent independent.
The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data.