Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll shows that with three weeks to go until the recall election Governor Scott Walker has taken a six-percentage point lead over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 50-44 percent, among likely voters. Just three percent say they are undecided. In the previous poll, taken April 26-29, Walker held a one-percentage point lead among likely voters, 48-47. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch holds a 47 to 41-percentage point lead over Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell in that recall election, with 10 percent undecided.
Looking ahead to the November election, President Barack Obama is tied with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 46 percent to 46 percent, among likely voters. In April Obama led Romney by 49 to 45 percent, also among likely voters.
Republicans are more likely to say they are “absolutely certain” to vote on June 5, at 91 percent, than are Democrats and independents, both at 83 percent. In other areas of participation, Republicans also have an advantage. Sixty-two percent of Republicans say that they have tried to persuade someone to vote for or against a candidate, compared to 54 percent among Democrats and 48 percent among independents. Democrats, however, are more likely to have been contacted by a campaign, 83 percent, to 78 percent for Republicans and 76 percent among independents. These rates are for all registered voters in the sample, not just likely voters.
Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin noted, “While both parties show unusual levels of involvement in the campaign, Republicans appear to hold an advantage in likely turnout, although Democrats are more likely to have been contacted by a campaign. In a close election with so few undecided voters, enthusiasm, turnout and campaign contact with voters may make the difference.”
Partisanship shifting in Republican direction
Another indication of Republican mobilization is a shift in the balance of Republican and Democratic partisanship over the past several months among all registered voters. In January there were two percentage points more Democrats than Republicans in the poll. That rose to eight points in February but has since declined to six points in March, three points in April and now just one point in May. When independents are asked if they feel closer to a party, the balance tips to a one-point Republican advantage in the May data. Such changes might be due to random variation from sample to sample, as the month-to-month changes are not large. However, polling by the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling, finds a similar trend. Their polls showed a six-percentage point Democratic advantage in October 2011. That declined to a two-point Democratic advantage in February, a one-point Republican advantage in April and a seven-point Republican advantage in a poll taken May 11-13.
Voters split sharply along party lines in their evaluation of six personal traits of the candidates. The poll asked how well the following words or phrases described each candidate: honest, decisive, cares about people like you, fair, inspiring and provides strong leadership. Across the six traits, an average of 76 percent among Democrats said that these traits described Barrett either “extremely well” or “very well.” In contrast, an average of only 22 percent of Republicans said these various traits described Barrett. For Walker, an average of 88 percent among Republicans said these six traits described him well, while only 23 percent of Democrats thought so. Among independents, an average of 47 percent thought that the traits described Barrett well, while for Walker an average of 54 percent thought so. Barrett has a less firmly established image than does Walker, with 8-13 percent unable to say how well the traits described him. For Walker only 2-4 percent were unable to say if a trait applied to him.
Walker’s strongest trait among independents was “decisive,” with 70 percent saying that described him. His weakest trait among independents was “fair,” picked by 49 percent. For Barrett, independents thought “honest” was most descriptive, at 53 percent, while his weakest trait was “inspiring,” picked by 38 percent of independents. Crossing party lines, Barrett got his highest rating among 31 percent of Republicans for “honest,” while 48 percent of Democrats said that Walker was “decisive.”
In the Lt. Governor’s recall neither candidate is as well known as the top of the ticket contenders. Republican incumbent Rebecca Kleefisch has a 25 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable rating, with 43 percent unable to give an opinion. Democrat Mahlon Mitchell has a 19 percent favorable and 10 percent unfavorable rating, with 71 percent unable to give a rating.
Collective bargaining continues to divide the electorate by single digits. Voters prefer to keep the current collective bargaining law rather than return to what it was prior to last year, by a 50-43 percentage point margin. Restoring collective bargaining is supported by 78 percent of Democrats and opposed by 81 percent of Republicans. Among independents, 53 percent want to keep the current law while 38 percent want to return to the previous law. In the April poll, 49 percent said they favored limiting collective bargaining for most public employees, while 45 percent opposed such limits. In the January poll, using different wording, the public was more evenly split, with 48 percent favoring limiting public employee bargaining over benefits and non-wage issues, while 47 percent were opposed.
Approval of Governor Walker
Walker’s job approval stands at 50 percent while 46 percent disapprove. In April 47 percent approved while 51 percent disapproved. Views of Walker also divide sharply over ends and means. The poll asked, “Which of the following statements come closest to your opinion of how Scott Walker has done as Governor? ‘I like what he’s done as Governor,’ ‘I like what he’s done but not how he’s done it’ or ‘I don’t like what he’s done as Governor.’” Thirty-seven percent said “I like what he’s done as Governor,” while 38 percent said “I don’t like what he’s done as Governor.” Twenty-two percent said “I like what he’s done but not how he’s done it.”
Jobs and the economy
Voters continue to hold negative views on jobs in the state. Thirty-seven percent say the state has lost jobs over the past year, with 20 percent saying the state has gained jobs and 38 percent seeing no change. The results in April were similar, with 39 percent saying jobs had been lost and 21 percent seeing gains. March had a more positive outlook, with 24 percent saying the state had lost jobs while 34 percent said the state had gained jobs. In February, however, perceptions were also negative, with 30 percent saying jobs had been lost and 22 percent seeing gains in jobs.
The presidential race has moved to a tie in Wisconsin, with Obama and Romney both at 46 percent among likely voters. In April Obama held a 4-point advantage over Romney among likely voters. Obama’s job approval is at 46 percent with 49 percent disapproval, down from a 50-46 point split in April.
Obama’s personal favorability in April was 49 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable, compared to a 55-43 split in April. Romney’s favorable rating is now 40 percent with 44 percent unfavorable. That continues a positive trend for Romney, from 33 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable in April, which was improved from February when his favorable rating fell to 27 percent, with 50 percent unfavorable.
About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Running monthly through the 2012 election, it provides a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the possible gubernatorial recall election and the campaigns for president and U.S. Senate, in addition to gauging opinion on major policy questions.
The results of today’s poll will be discussed at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” in Madison. Similar poll release events are held at Marquette Law School throughout the year.
The poll interviewed 704 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone May 9-12, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 600 “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Results for vote in the Governor, Lt. Governor and presidential races are reported for likely voters. All other results are for the full sample of 704 registered voters. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.