How important is enthusiasm among voters in determining the outcome of an election? Very, and the closer the election, the more important enthusiasm usually is because it indicates who will actually turn out to vote.
So how important are the “enthusiasm” results in the Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday? That remains to be seen, starting with keeping an eye on the remaining rounds of polls that will be released before the Nov. 4 election.
But it is a sure bet that people working in the campaigns of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, are paying close attention to the new results. While the poll showed that the race for governor remains essentially tied, there was an uptick in how enthusiastic Walker supporters are and in the percentage of people who identified themselves as Republicans.
Overall, the poll found that Walker and Burke are tied at 46% each among registered voters. Among those considered likely voters (people who said they are registered and are certain to vote), Walker was supported by 49% and Burke 46%. In both cases, the outcomes were within the poll’s margins of error.
Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll, said that in rounds of polling in July and August, Democrats were more likely to vote, but in the new round, Republicans had the advantage. Eighty percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote in November, up from 77% in August. Among Democrats, 73% said they are certain to vote, compared to 82% in August. The results among independents did not change much – 68% in August, 69% in September.
A second result worth noting: Among Republicans, 67% said they were “very enthusiastic” about voting, up from 59% in the previous month. Among Democrats, 60% said they were “very enthusiastic” in both August and September.
A third result: For the first time in 24 rounds of Marquette Law School Polls dating back to early 2012, more people identified themselves as Republicans than Democrats. Overall, 29% said they were Republicans, 28% said they were Democrats, and 41% said they were independents. In August, Democrats had the advantage by four points. That is also the overall Democratic advantage across all of the Marquette Law School polls. Among likely voters in the September poll, Franklin said, 32% said they were Republicans and 28% said they were Democrats.
“It’s unusual to see a five-point shift in partisan composition” from one month to the next, Franklin said. “People should be appropriately skeptical since it is always possible this sample is simply an outlier. However, the shift to more Republicans and fewer Democrats occurred across all regions of the state and most demographic groups, demonstrating that it was not a localized difference in response rates.”
Campaign strategies focus heavily on how to motivate turnout of those inclined to vote for their candidate. That is especially in a race where there are so few voters saying they are undecided. Lighting a fire under supporters is a key goal for both Burke and Walker. That means the enthusiasm indicators are something to watch as the remainder of the race unfolds.
Franklin said at the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” event where the results were released that as the election gets closer, results involving “likely voters” will merit more attention than those involved “registered voters” since the likely voters are usually a better indicator of what will happen on election day.
The poll was conducted between Sept. 11 and 14 and included 800 registered voters and 589 likely voters. The margin of error among registered voters was +/- 3.5 percentage points and the margin among likely voters was +/- 4.1 points.
The full results of the poll may be found by clicking here.