There’s something happening here, and what it is is becoming clearer: A shift in the overall partisan make-up of Wisconsin’s voting population toward Republicans.
It’s not a huge shift – a couple percentage point increase in the number of people who identify as Republicans or as leaning Republican, a similar decrease in the number who identify as Democrats or as leaning Democratic. The result is a near tie in partisanship, compared to several years ago when the Democrats held a slight advantage. But it is enough of a change to suggest that the polarized political make-up of Wisconsin is becoming more polarized, and the state’s propensity to have elections with very close outcomes may be getting stronger.
Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of an expert, Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. A new round of poll results was released on Wednesday. Rather than start the program during which results were presented with specifics (such as President Donald Trump’s approval ratings among Wisconsin voters), Franklin first talked for more than 12 minutes about the shift in partisan identification since 2016.
Franklin said that, at first, he wasn’t sure what to make of the results of the questions asked in every round of polling about respondents’ party identification. Was it a blip or an anomaly that the percentage of registered voters saying they were Republicans was up?
Franklin said that the trend has persisted, and analysis of actual election results confirms its significance. In short, Republican strongholds such as suburbs surrounding Milwaukee have become a bit less predominantly Republican, but areas in the north and west of the state have become more Republican. The trend is particularly noticeable among white men who don’t have college degrees, Franklin said.
He said he examined results up to and including the 2016 election, when Trump narrowly carried Wisconsin and the shift wasn’t really visible up to that point. “The change that is consequential has taken place since 2016, and it does matter,” Franklin said.
That doesn’t mean the needle won’t move back toward the Democrats or move increasingly toward Republicans. But it’s enough to be worth attention as it stands now.
Again, don’t take my word for it. Watch the mini-lecture by Franklin near the start of the one-hour program or his summary of the subject at the end of the hour. The video is available by clicking here.