New Poll Results Illuminate a Year That Goes Beyond “Interesting”

Goodness, those Donald Trump poll numbers – they do take my breath away. And the Hillary Clinton numbers do much the same.

The release Thursday of a new set of Marquette Law School Poll results brought a wave of interesting insights into public opinion in Wisconsin, as it always does.

But the degree to which Trump and Clinton are polarizing figures, the subject of both great support and great opposition, goes beyond the word “interesting.” It’s vivid history being made in front of our eyes, especially with each in good position to win nomination. A Clinton-Trump showdown for the presidency in the fall – it’s an amazing but somewhat likely prospect.

Overall, the new Law School Poll found Trump increasing his lead among Republicans and those leaning Republican who are registered voters in Wisconsin. He was supported by 30%, with Marco Rubio at 20% and Ted Cruz at 19%.

On the Democratic side, the Wisconsin primary on April 5 continues to shape up as a toss-up. In a January round of Law School Poll results, Clinton led Bernie Sanders by two points. This time, Sanders led Clinton by one point.

But the breath-taking results lay behind those numbers. One example was in the “net favorability” ratings of the candidates. Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll, said that if you subtract a candidate’s negative ratings from the positive ratings, you get a result indicating overall popularity.

For Trump, the net favorability rating was -43, meaning there were far more people who have a negative view of him than a positive one. Even among Republicans, his net favorability was zero, meaning as many don’t like him as like him.

Clinton had a net favorability of -18, which isn’t very good (Ted Cruz also was at -18). But it is striking how high her favorable ratings are among Democrats (+55) but how overwhelmingly negative they are (-89) among Republicans. Trump’s negative rating among Democrats was -76.

In other words, there is a strong prospect of a race in November between two candidates who are each liked by strong but somewhat narrow groups and disliked to an unusual degree, even when it comes to measuring how supporters of one party view the candidate of the other party.

A further measure of this: The poll asked how comfortable or uncomfortable people would be with each of the major candidates as president. John Kasich, Rubio, Sanders, and Cruz would make a lot of people “very uncomfortable” – 20 percent to 35 percent of Wisconsin voters in each instance. But for Clinton, the figure was 41 percent, including 81 percent of Republicans. And for Trump, it was 53 percent, including 82 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans.

Polarized feelings about Clinton and Trump show up in polling of head-to-head potential November matches. In short, Sanders does much better among independents than Clinton does, which means that he does much better in match-ups against Republicans than she does. For example, Clinton and Cruz were tied at 43 percent each, while Sanders beat Cruz by 18 points, 53 percent to 35 percent.

Clinton was essentially in a tie with Rubio as well as Cruz. But she led Trump by 10 points, 47 percent to 37 percent. On the other hand, Sanders led Trump by 20 points, 54 percent to 34 percent.

What a fall this may be for American politics.

A few other highlights from the poll:

With about six weeks until the April 5 election, the race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court appears close, with a large number of voters yet to learn enough about the candidates and make up their minds. Overall, Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg each drew support from 30 percent of those polled, with 31 percent saying they didn’t know how they would vote.

There has been little change in results for the US Senate race between Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and Democratic challenge (and former senator) Russ Feingold. Feingold led in this round 49 percent to 37 percent, about the same as in several recent Law School Polls.

Gov. Scott Walker’s approval ratings remain below 40 percent (this time, 39 percent), as they have been in recent polls.

And, in ways that reflect a Democrat-Republican divide, 51 percent favor the US Senate taking up a nomination to the US Supreme Court this year, while 40 percent say action on that should wait until after the presidential election. In the Senate itself, Democrats generally have favored moving on a nomination this year while Republicans have been strongly opposed.

Full results of the poll may be found by clicking here.

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