Prox and the Poll

Senator ProxmireHe died more than nine years ago, but the spirit of the late U.S. Senator William Proxmire lives on in Wisconsin. The proof can be found in the latest Marquette Law School Poll, which suggests that someone like Proxmire, a political maverick if there ever was one, might play well in Wisconsin today. More on that in a moment, but first a couple of thoughts on what this latest survey tells us.

Today’s Marquette Law School Poll tends to complicate the national narrative about Wisconsin: that we’re a hyper-polarized state with voters split almost equally between Republican red and Democratic blue. While voting patterns certainly seem to support that claim, the poll results point to an electorate with a considerably more nuanced view of the world, replete with mixed messages that are sure to cause a lot of head-scratching among political pundits. Case in point: the poll finds that 54 percent of voters feel the state is moving in the right direction, which for the last three-and-a-half years, has been a distinctly conservative one. But on a number of key issues, Wisconsin voters agree with positions favored by Democrats. They support a hike in the minimum wage and accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid. They don’t like outsourcing. They think tax cuts favor the wealthy. They want to know more about whose deep pockets are funding political campaigns. Past polls have also shown majority support for repealing the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

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The Rest of the Story

The story will be the horse race. It always is. Governor Walker and likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke are in a dead heat.  But there are a couple of interesting subplots in the latest numbers from the Marquette Law School Poll.

Like many Democratic candidates, Burke fares especially well with younger voters, and with those who are single (never married, widowed, or divorced).  Governor Walker, the Republican, scores best with those who are middle-age and married.  This is essentially the same voter behavior we saw in the 2012 presidential election.  But in a non-presidential year, the question for Burke will be whether those in the demographics who like her most will show up at the polls.

While the Burke campaign is undoubtedly pleased that the race appears close, one of the poll’s results may be cause for concern for her — 49 per cent of voters say they still don’t know enough about Burke to have an opinion of her.  That spells opportunity for the Walker campaign, which has unleashed a series of ads recently, rushing to define Burke before she defines herself.

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Poll Results Show Strengths and Weaknesses for Walker and Burke

A couple of quick observations about the newest Marquette Law School Poll, released Wednesday. It contains good news for Republican Governor Scott Walker, who leads his likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke 48 to 41 percent among those surveyed. Walker should also be heartened by the results of the familiar and important “right direction/wrong track” question. Fifty-four  percent of respondents say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. Only 42 per cent say we’re on the wrong track. There is also majority support for his recently signed $541 million property and income tax cut.

But the poll reveals several areas of concern for the governor. He remains below 50 percent in job approval and in a head-to-head matchup with Burke. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed say a failure to keep his 250,000 new jobs promise would be “very important” or “somewhat important” in deciding how they would vote. The governor’s opposition to a minimum wage hike and repealing the state’s same sex marriage ban puts him at odds with public sentiment in the poll, and the recently released John Doe documents aren’t helpful. But perhaps the most worrisome result for the Walker campaign is found in question number 32. When asked if Walker “cares about people like me,” 51 percent say he doesn’t. Forty-three percent say he does. Mary Burke fares better on the question. Thirty-six percent say Burke “cares about people like me.” Twenty-nine percent say she doesn’t. But 34 percent say they don’t know, demonstrating that many people still haven’t formed an opinion of Burke. It’s early, but the “empathy” or “compassion” question will be one to watch as the campaign moves into high gear.






Continue ReadingPoll Results Show Strengths and Weaknesses for Walker and Burke