At a Time of High-Charged Events, New Law School Poll Sheds Even-Handed Light

There are ways in which the volatility of the current political scene seeped into the release Wednesday of the latest round of Marquette Law School Poll results. But there are more ways it didn’t.

An extraordinary time in American politics has brought an extraordinary week in Wisconsin politics, with the state’s presidential primary on April 5 standing as the next major event on the political calendar. All five of the remaining major candidates for president have spent at least two days in the state this week, with several developments of national significance occurring on our home turf.

The passions of thousands attending events with Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the political drama of the battle (including insults) between Trump and Ted Cruz, the search by Hillary Clinton for ways to build more fire behind her support in Wisconsin, a three-hour “town hall meeting” with Trump, Cruz, and John Kasich, telecast by CNN from Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater – this is just aa partial list of events in Wisconsin this week.

So stakes are high as Wisconsin returns to being a battleground in the presidential race. High stakes bring high tension and high levels of partisanship.

And then there was a release of the poll at Eckstein Hall, with Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at the Law School, leading a tour of the new results. Calm. Level-headed. Insightful. Strictly non-partisan. Much the same as several dozen poll-release events since the Marquette Law School Poll started in 2012.  

But you could see the drama of what is going on in Wisconsin in the poll results. Among the highlights:

Cruz’ sharp increase in support from the February round of polling, bringing him to a 10-point lead over Trump and framing the question of whether stop-Trump Republicans will score an important victory here .

Sanders’ continued strength on the Democratic side, leaving him with a lead of four percentage points over Clinton, compared to the one-point lead he had in February.

The high number of voters who say they are “very uncomfortable” with the idea of either of the two national frontrunners becoming president. For Trump, 55 percent overall (89 percent of Democratic voters, 23 percent of Republican voters) said they were “very comfortable” with the possibility of him in the White House. With Clinton, Democrats don’t have much problem (only eight percent were “very uncomfortable”), but 82 percent of Republicans have that “very uncomfortable” reaction to her.

Sanders amazing strength among voters who are 18 to 29. The poll found 83 percent of younger voters who are planning to take part in the Democratic primary support Sanders – a number so high it brought an audible reaction among those attending the session. On the other hand, Clinton is the choice of 63 percent of those over 60 and, as Franklin pointed out, older voters have a track record of turning out to vote in much higher percentages than younger voters.

Beyond the presidential races, the poll also suggested a tightening of the race for the United States Senate, which won’t be decided until November. In this round of results, Democrat Russ Feingold led Republican Ron Johnson by five points, 47 percent to 42 percent. In February, Feingold’s lead was 12 points.

And it pointed to a tight race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with Justice Rebecca Bradley holding a five point advantage over Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, although many likely voters say they are undecided. The poll also showed how much support for each of the candidates in the non-partisan court race aligns with partisanship in the presidential race. Among those who say they will vote in the Republican primary, 69 percent support Bradley and 11 percent support Kloppenburg. Among Democratic primary voters, 64 percent support Kloppenburg and 12 percent support Bradley.

The poll results and the session offered even light and facts about what people are thinking at a time of high heat and sometimes-little attention to facts.

For full details on results of the new poll, click here.   


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. James Pawlak

    Has the Poll been scientifically evaluated for “reliability” and “level confidence”? If so, how does it compare with other, like, polls?

  2. Kathleen Lake

    Dear Mr. Borsuk,

    Please forgive my poor writing in advance, it’s not my strong suit. I am not a journalist or even an English major. However, I thought I ought to tell you why I and millions of other American Democrats will not be voting for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. Even if it means a Trump presidency. I don’t think you understand the depths to which we are disgusted by Clinton’s duplicity and her funding.

    You and a few of our fellow Democrats don’t understand why we won’t back Hillary, not now and not in November. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that much to do with her. She has made some serious mistakes in the friends/donors she has chosen and their are some dubious tactics she and her husband have employed but that is not the reason we won’t vote for her … ever.). The real reasons are very simple and based factors every American can understand.

    1. We don’t like being nullified or circumvented by our own party. We are Democrats … not Hillary’s handlers.

    2. We don’t like enduring thinly-veiled manipulations of the media (I mean come on … most of us had political science in high school we know how to read a piece of yellow journalism and we can readily identify “native advertising” done by experts). We really aren’t as dumb as people think we are.

    3. Messing with voter participation, visiting polling places, messing around with ballots and their availability, corrupting the electoral process … not a good game plan.

    4. Superdelegates. At their best they add more weight to the votes of the underserved, under-represented people of America. Superdelegates who have great integrity and actively seek to represent what these populations want and need are to be applauded. But, unfortunately, the superdelegate system has become a way for the DNC elite and Wall Street donors to ignore the will of the people and elect whomever they want. It’s pretty much a litmus test for who they are really listening to.

    5. Bernie Sanders does not need the DNC to win against Trump. A lot of decent, kind, honorable Americans from both the left and the right will vote for Sanders this November with or without the DNC. Hillary Clinton, however, cannot win against Trump without Sanders voter support and there are millions of Americans on the right who will never vote for Hillary despite being alarmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency.

    6. This conflict is really about Wall Street, corporations and Big Money interests in politics. Americans lost their homes, retirement, education funds and their lives due to the malignant behavior of the ultra-rich and their Wall Street employees. We will not vote for a candidate funded by them (which Hillary is and to a huge degree.). How could they not see this coming?

    7. We came here to tear down the status quo, not join it. While we are trying to be fair, even kind (though the 1% has never displayed this effort), we are going to vote “out” politicians who kowtow to these interests over the openly expressed wishes of their constituency. A lot of these politicians I voted for, donated to and worked to get elected. I like them and it’s hard for me, but they must go.

    8. We will either make the Democratic Party what Democratic voters want it to be or we will start over from scratch. There will be no more dirty tricks, lying and “charm” offensives. We don’t want Karl Rove in Democratic clothing. No more autocrats and bullies like Wasserman. No more lobbyists. Our party is going to be ethical and honest in its dealing with our hard-working elected Democrat politicians. No more threats, bribes or power struggles. If we elected them then the party had better support them. If we want them out they will be out. It is our call.

    So I hope this help you and other journalists understand why we will not vote for Hillary (sorry Hill, I have been a fan for years) in November. The prospect of a Republican president no matter how mind-bendingly perverse is better than living with the knowledge that our whole electoral process is just an exercise in futility and that an elite class of Americans will do whatever they want.

    I join with my fellow Democrat brothers and sisters, our Blue Dog cousins and our Libertarian, Independent, Republican and even (God forbid) Tea Party allies in saying “Bernie or Bust.”

    Kathleen Lake

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