Marquette Law School Poll shows Barrett leads Falk in recall primary; Walker and Barrett within single percentage point

Obama leads Romney by 9 points

Milwaukee, Wis. – With less than a week until the primary in the historic Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, a new Marquette Law School Poll shows Tom Barrett leading Kathleen Falk 38 percent to 21 percent, with 8 percent for Doug La Follette and 6 percent for Kathleen Vinehout. In a June general election between Barrett and Governor Scott Walker, Barrett leads by one percentage point, 47-46, among all registered voters, while Walker leads by one percentage point, 48-47, among likely voters. Both results are well within the margin of error of the poll. Walker leads former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk 49 percent to 42 percent among registered voters and 49 percent to 43 percent among likely voters.

Looking ahead to the November election, President Barack Obama leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 51 percent to 42 percent, a small change from the 48-43 matchup in March just prior to Romney’s win in the Wisconsin Republican primary.

The Democratic primary margin has widened since the March 22-25 Marquette Law School poll, in which Barrett held 36 percent to Falk’s 29 percent with La Follette and Vinehout at 8 percent each. A significant number of Democratic primary voters are still undecided, 19 percent in the latest poll, up slightly from 17 percent in March. Undecided voters were asked which candidate they lean towards. Including those leaning voters, the primary results become Barrett at 45 percent, Falk at 23 percent, La Follette at 8 percent and Vinehout at 8 percent, with 9 percent still saying they are undecided.

Likelihood of voting makes little difference for the Democratic primary. Among likely voters Barrett has 38 percent to Falk’s 20 percent with La Follette at 8 percent and Vinehout at 7 percent.

Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin noted, “Despite Barrett’s late entry into the race, he has improved his position both among Democratic primary voters and in the general recall contest against Walker. Barrett trailed Walker by 6 percentage points in January but cut that to two points in March. The contest is now essentially a tie.”

Issues important to Democratic primary voters
Democratic primary voters ranked “creating new jobs,” picked by 46 percent, as the most important consideration in their choice of a nominee. Twenty-five percent said “defeating Scott Walker,” while 14 percent said “reducing political divisions in the state.” Twelve percent picked “restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees.”

Thirty-seven percent of Democratic primary voters said they favored a pledge to veto the state budget if it did not restore collective bargaining for state employees, while 48 percent opposed such a pledge. Fifty-two percent said they favored calling a special session of the legislature to restore collective bargaining rights, while 39 percent opposed doing so.

Open primary voters and “fake” candidates
Wisconsin’s open primary system allows any voter to participate in a primary regardless of party. According to the Marquette Law School Poll, voters in the April Republican Presidential primary included 17 percent Democrats, 42 percent Republicans and 39 percent independents. Those saying they will vote in the May 8 Democratic recall primary are a virtual mirror image of that: 17 percent Republicans, 44 percent Democrats, and 36 percent independents.

A majority of all registered voters, 59 percent, said so-called “fake” or “protest” candidates should not be allowed on the ballot while 29 percent said they should be allowed. A majority of each partisan category said such candidates should not be allowed, including 53 percent among Republicans, 72 percent among Democrats and 54 percent among independents.

Voters highly involved in the election process
Wisconsin voters have been substantially engaged in the political process over the past 16 months. Fully half, 50 percent, said they had talked to other people and tried to show them why they should vote for or against a candidate. Just over a quarter, 26 percent, said they had put up a yard sign or bumper sticker, and 20 percent had contributed money to a candidate. Eighteen percent said they had attended a rally or demonstration. Thirty-eight percent said they had signed a recall petition over the past sixteen months, including last summer’s state senate recalls and those this year for senate, governor, or lieutenant governor. Fifty-eight percent say they talk about politics with family or friends at least once a week, and 39 percent say they do so with co-workers.

The political involvement and conflict of the last year have also taken a toll on conversation. Twenty-nine percent say there is someone they’ve stopped talking to about politics due to disagreements over the recall or the governor.

Jobs and the economy
Voters have become more negative in their perceptions of the jobs situation in the state over the last month. In March, 24 percent said the state had lost jobs over the previous 12 months, while 34 percent said the state had gained jobs. That was reversed in this late April polling, with 38 percent saying jobs had been lost and 21 percent saying the state added jobs. The remainder, 39 percent in March and 38 percent in April, said the number of jobs was about the same. In February perceptions were similar to April, with 30 percent saying jobs had been lost and 22 percent seeing gains in jobs.

The public is closely divided on which party is better at creating jobs in the state, with 46 percent saying the Democrats are better and 44 percent saying Republicans are better.

On the national economic outlook, 44 percent expect the economy to get better over the next year, with 15 percent expecting a worse economy and 36 percent saying it will stay about the same. Asked about the impact of the recession on their personal financial situation, 24 percent say they have still not recovered from a major impact of the recession, 34 percent say they were affected but have recovered, and 40 percent say the recession did not have a major effect on their situation.

Presidential race
The presidential race remains competitive in Wisconsin, with Obama holding a 51 percent to 42 percent lead over Romney, up slightly from 48-43 in March. Obama’s job approval in April stood at 50 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. In March it was 48 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. Since January, Obama’s approval has varied between 47 and 50 percent approval and 43 to 47 percent disapproval.

Obama’s personal favorability in April was 55 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stood at 33 percent with 46 percent unfavorable in the new poll results,, which was somewhat improved from February during the Republican primary campaign, 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 were discussed at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar events will be held at the release of polls throughout the year.

The poll interviewed 705 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone April 26-29, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. For the 451 respondents who said they would vote in the Democratic recall primary, the margin of error is +/- 4.7 percentage points. As for results for “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote, the sample for the June recall is 561 respondents with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points. There were 399 likely voters in the May 8 Democratic primary, with a margin of error of +/- 5.0 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at