Out-of-State Investment in Milwaukee’s Home Rental Market

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(Click here to download the entire report.)

I bought a home last year in Milwaukee’s Uptown neighborhood. It’s a nice place—one  I’ve come to see as quintessentially Milwaukee. Kids walk to the playground at the end of the block. Adults walk to the coffeeshop. The mostly interwar-built houses are sturdily constructed on small lots. Typically, they’re worth about $30,000 less than the citywide average, so it’s the kind of place many people can comfortably afford to live. Since moving in, I’ve enjoyed getting to know my neighbors—school district employees, a firefighter, a welder, a guy who assembles circuit boards, the lady who feeds the cats. For a researcher like myself, meeting my neighbors hasn’t just meant striking up conversations on the sidewalk. I’ve also dug into the property records of the houses near mine. In doing so, I’ve learned that locals aren’t the only people interested in Uptown.

Since 2018, LLCs based outside Wisconsin entirely have purchased dozens of houses near mine. Ohio-based VineBrook Homes, Milwaukee’s most aggressive home buyer, owns five houses within three blocks of mine (part of the nearly 350 they have purchased citywide so far). Another national company, SFR3, owns several more. Sometimes the ownership is obscure. The duplex at 2702-04 North 49th Street is owned by “2704 N 49TH ST 53210 LLC.” This particular LLC lists an owner’s mailing address in San Francisco. I’ve lost track of the number of flyers I’ve received encouraging me to sell my home. One Friday night, someone even called my cell phone, offering to buy my house.

My neighborhood is one small part of a wave of single family home and duplex purchases by large corporate investors, often with Wall Street backing. Continue reading “Out-of-State Investment in Milwaukee’s Home Rental Market”

Why Do Republicans Overperform in the Wisconsin State Assembly? Partisan Gerrymandering vs. Political Geography

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(This essay is adapted from an On the Issues program with Craig Gilbert, Mike Gousha, and John Johnson. Click here to view that program in its entirety.)

Wisconsin has a confusing political personality. A casual observer might perceive it as a blue state. After all, 2016 is the only year a Democratic presidential candidate lost the state since 1984. On the other hand, it feels very purple when you consider that Barack Obama is the only presidential candidate since Michael Dukakis to win an outright majority of the vote. In still more ways, you might think this is a solidly red state. Republicans have controlled the State Assembly for all but three years of my lifetime. Rather than encouraging a mood of bipartisanship, I think this combination of red and blue traits leads many Republicans and Democrats alike to believe that they are the “true” representatives of Wisconsin who are only stymied by the illegitimate interference of the other party.

My preferred description is that Wisconsin, politically speaking, is not one moderate state; rather, it is one very conservative state overlapping another very liberal one. This state of affairs, after all, isn’t new. Wisconsin gave the nation the rabid anti-communist senator Joseph McCarthy at the same time Milwaukee elected its third mayor from the Socialist Party. The varied nature of Democratic and Republican coalitions in Wisconsin—both geographically and demographically—gives each party advantages in certain kinds of elections. Republicans have long performed better in the state legislature than their statewide vote share would suggest. This advantage accelerated after the 2011 redistricting, by some measures doubling their previous advantage. But how much of the built-in Republican advantage in the State Assembly is due to deliberate partisan gerrymandering and to what extent it is the natural consequence of Wisconsin’s political geography? Continue reading “Why Do Republicans Overperform in the Wisconsin State Assembly? Partisan Gerrymandering vs. Political Geography”

Lafayette Crump: Success as Development Commissioner Will Mean Improved Equity in Milwaukee

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How does Lafayette Crump define success in his new job as the City of Milwaukee’s commissioner of City Development?

“I think it would be a disservice to this community if I did not view my success through the prism of how I am able to improve racial and economic equity in the city of Milwaukee,” Crump said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program. The interview, one of the “virtual Lubar Center” programs of Marquette Law School, was posted online on Wednesday, August 26.

“I’m charged as development commissioner to promote development in the City of Milwaukee, to bring jobs here, to ensure that we lessen the impact of home foreclosures, that we assure that there is affordable housing available for people. All of that is clearly important and we will never lose sight of that as a department,” Crump said. “But we have to think about those things through the prism of how they are improving racial equity.” Continue reading “Lafayette Crump: Success as Development Commissioner Will Mean Improved Equity in Milwaukee”

How are Wisconsin voters experiencing the pandemic economy?

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Wisconsin’s unemployment rate hit 14 percent in April and remained at 12 percent in May. Combining surveys from late March, early May, and mid June, the Marquette Law Poll found that 13 percent of Wisconsin registered voters had lost a job or been laid-off due to the coronavirus outbreak. A further 23 percent said this had happened to a family member. Likewise, 23 percent reported working fewer hours due to the coronavirus outbreak, and another 29 percent said this had happened to a family member. Altogether, 27 percent of those interviewed had either lost a job, lost hours, or both at some point during the economic shutdown.

Taken by themselves, these numbers suggest an economic catastrophe on par with the Great Depression, but that has not happened–at least not yet–in the experiences of most Wisconsinites. In nearly every poll, we ask respondents to evaluate their family’s financial situation–are they “living comfortably, just getting by, or struggling to make ends meet?” The trend is remarkably flat. In January 2020 63 percent said they were living comfortably–statistically indistinguishable from the 61 percent saying the same thing in June. So what gives?

Graph of self-reported subjective economic status, January - June 2020

Our poll alone cannot answer this question definitely, but it can offer some clues. Just as COVID-19 has hurt some communities in Wisconsin more than others, so too has the accompanying economic crisis. Along with disproportionate cases and deaths, Black and Latinx Wisconsin residents faced a stark economic toll. The number of Black respondents “struggling to make ends meet” increased from 10 percent in January/February to 22 percent during the pandemic. The proportion of Latinx respondents “living comfortably” declined from 66 percent to 47 percent over the same period.

In early 2020, prior to the economic shutdown, 63 percent of respondents described their family as “living comfortably.” People who lost their job during the pandemic did indeed report declining financial comfort. Just 37 percent of those who lost a job were “living comfortably.” Even worse off were those whose families lost multiple jobs. Only one in three people in this position were “living comfortably;” 57 percent were “just getting by,” and 11 percent were “struggling to make ends meet.” But people who suffered no financial ill effects actually improved their self-assessed financial well-being during the pandemic. Among people whose families lost no jobs or hours, 70 percent were “living comfortably,” 25 percent “just getting by,” and only 4 percent struggling to make ends meet.

The table below compares experiences by income level in 2019. To maximize cases, I pooled together all respondents who reported a job loss among any member of their family.

Before the pandemic, 37 percent of people with household incomes below $40,000 said they were living comfortably. People in this income bracket whose family lost at least one job during the shutdown now report a 24 percent rate of “living comfortably”–a 13 percent decline. Forty-seven percent of people from families who avoided income losses now say they are “living comfortably”–a 10 percent increase. The same pattern repeats itself in each other income tier.

percent of respondents living comfortably by job loss

What accounts for the increase in “living comfortably” among those who’ve kept their jobs? I see three possible explanations, all of which probably contribute in some way.

First, job losses in the pandemic have been concentrated among lower-wage workers. It could be that those who lost their jobs were already more likely to be financially struggling. Second, people whose families have kept their jobs may feel themselves lucky and are thus more likely to positively evaluate their subjective financial well-being. Third, people who have maintained an uninterrupted income stream may actually be making and/or saving more money than before. Whatever the cause, the pandemic appears to be sharpening the division between haves and have-nots in Wisconsin’s economy.

The Washington, D.C., Issue of the Marquette Lawyer Magazine 

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2020 Summer Cover

Amid all the global disruptions that started in March, Marquette Law School moved forward effectively in teaching students to be lawyers and in offering, as best we could, the public engagement we are known for. One important aspect of the latter is the release of the new issue of the Marquette Lawyer magazine, produced with a few internal procedural adjustments, but no change in schedule or in our commitment to provide high-quality reading to Marquette lawyers, all lawyers in Wisconsin, and many interested others.

Washington, D.C., is the focus of the new issue. The Washington that’s in Continue reading “The Washington, D.C., Issue of the Marquette Lawyer Magazine “

Why isn’t Racine part of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area?

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The Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area (“The Milwaukee Metro”) consists of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties, but not Racine County. Why not? Racine County, home to Wisconsin’s fifth largest city, lies just to the south of Milwaukee County. The answer to this question reveals much about the economic geography of southeastern Wisconsin. Despite its close physical proximity to the Milwaukee Metro, Racine County still lacks economic integration with its neighbor to the north. There are doubtlessly many ways in which Racine is part of the “Greater Milwaukee Area,” but workforce connectivity (the key metric used to define metro areas) is not one of them.

Understanding core based statistical areas

Metropolitan Statistical Areas are a vital concept for understanding American cities because the legal boundaries of “central cities” vary so much from one place to another and because the cultural, economic and social web of a city extends well beyond wherever those political boundaries calcified. Since 1949 the federal government has defined what are currently called “core based statistical areas” (CBSAs). A CBSA containing at least one urbanized area with at least 50,000 or more residents is a “metropolitan statistical area.” Smaller CBSAs are “micropolitan statistical areas.” As the term “core-based” suggests, Micro- or Metro-politan areas are centered around one or more principal cities. The most populous municipality in each CBSA is a principal city by default, but additional cities are designated principal cities if they draw large numbers of commuters in their own right. The Los Angeles metropolitan area has 19 principal cities, for instance. The Milwaukee Metro has two principal cities–Milwaukee and Waukesha.

The boundaries of core based statistical areas are defined using commuter flows. There are two main ways for a place to be part of a CBSA. One way is to be a commuter hub–a principal city–drawing in workers from the rest of the region. In an MSA with multiple principal cities, each will act as an interconnected hub, with large numbers of workers commuting each direction every day. As I wrote in 2017, “Milwaukee city attracts the most workers—some 125,000 in total. Still, nearly 95,000 people leave the city for work every day. Thirty-thousand of them go to Waukesha county, while 30,000 in Waukesha commute to the city of Milwaukee. The net-worker balance between Milwaukee city and Waukesha county is virtually equal.” The other way for an area to be part of a CBSA is as a commuter suburb. Some places attract very few outside workers, but provide a large number of employees for other towns. Muskego in Waukesha county is a good example. Eighty-five percent of its workers commute somewhere else, and the town’s population shrinks by about 30% during the workday.

Few workers commute from Milwaukee or Waukesha to Racine

Given this criteria, Racine County is in an odd situation. Like Waukesha, it has a principal city of its own. Reflecting this, about two-thirds of workers from Racine and Waukesha counties alike commute to work within their county of residence. This is much more than Washington or Ozaukee counties where just half of commuters work in their county of residence. Again like Waukesha county, Racine county does send more than a few workers to the Milwaukee metro. Seventeen percent go to Milwaukee county and 6 percent to Waukesha. But this relationship is not reciprocal. Just 1 percent of Milwaukee county workers commute to Racine, compared to 14 percent going to Waukesha. Waukesha sends 28 percent of its workers to Milwaukee but just 1 percent to Racine.

Racine County has a one-way commuter relationship with the Milwaukee metro area. The City of Racine is a commuter hub locally, but its pull does not reach far. Thirteen Milwaukee county workers commute west to Waukesha county for every 1 who travels south to Racine County.

Racine doesn’t do much better with its southern neighbor Kenosha county, either. Kenosha county is classified as part of the Chicago MSA. About 27 percent of its workers travel to Illinois compared to just 11 percent who work in Racine.

The boundaries of metropolitan statistical areas are intended to describe reality, not shape it. In the future, Racine’s economy may become intertwined with Milwaukee’s in the same way that Milwaukee and Waukesha have grown into a single economic unit. The Foxconn project could be the catalyst needed to make this shift (if it is ever completed). In the meantime, however, Racine remains a close cousin, if not a sibling member of the Milwaukee Metro.

graphs showing commute flows between counties in SE Wisconsin

A majority still supports Wisconsin’s shutdown, but opposition and uncertainty are growing

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During our late March survey, the Marquette Law Poll found remarkably strong and widespread support for the measures taken by state and local authorities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. That support was reiterated in the online free-response interviews we conducted as a supplement to our phone polling.

Our latest poll, fielded in early May, finds that a majority of Wisconsin registered voters still support the mandatory shutdown and social distancing measures taken thus far. However, dissent is growing. At the end of March 86 percent said it was appropriate to close schools and businesses and to restrict public gatherings. Now, 69 percent agree. In March, 76 percent approved of Tony Evers’ handling of the crisis. Now 64% do. Approval of Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has fallen 7 points to 44 percent. From March to May the percent “very concerned” about the pandemic declined from 68 to 50 percent, and the number “somewhat concerned” fell from 31 to 25. Likewise, the share of respondents “very” or “somewhat” worried about personally experiencing COVID-19 fell from 70 percent to 50.

We asked respondents, “Which concerns you more regarding the lockdown and stay-at-home restrictions? That we open up too soon or that we don’t open up soon enough?” A majority, 56 percent, are more worried that we open up too soon. But a substantial minority, 40 percent, are more concerned that the shutdown lasts too long.

table showing response to question by age, income, and party ID

Older people tend to be more concerned about opening up too soon than middle-aged and younger Wisconsinites. Only twenty-seven percent of those 65 and older are worried we open open up soon enough compared with 45 percent of those ages 40-64 and 46 percent of those under 40.

Wealthier Wisconsinites are more worried about the shutdown lasting too long. This is the top worry for 52 percent of those making at least $75,000, compared with 34% of those making $40,000 to $74,000 and 30 percent of those making fewer than $40,000 last year.

The largest difference is between members of the two parties. Seventy percent of Republicans are more worried that we will stay shut down too long, compared with 40 percent of Independents, and 11 percent of Democrats. Conversely, 86 percent of Democrats are more worried that we will open up too soon, along with 55 percent of Independents, and 26 percent of Republicans.

Partisanship interacts with income and age in different ways. One in four Democrats under the age of 40 is more worried about the shutdown lasting too long, compared to just 6 percent of Democrats 65 or older. Similarly, older Republicans are more worried about opening up too soon (38 percent) than younger Republicans (24 percent).

Income shows a different trend. Among Democrats there is no difference in relative concern by income level. Over 80 percent of wealthy and low income Democrats alike are more afraid of opening up too soon. Among Republicans, though, there are striking differences. Eighty-two percent of Republicans from families making at least $75,000 annually are more worried about the shutdown lasting too long, and 16 percent are worried we will open up too soon. Low income Republicans are much more divided. Fifty-two percent of Republicans making less than $40,000 last year express more worry about the shutdown going on too long, but 41 percent are more concerned it will end too soon.

table showing responses to question by age and income among Demcorats and Republicans

Notice that our question asks “which concerns you more?” As is clear from our open-ended interviews, many Wisconsinites painfully feel both worries. They worry about how they will cope financially and emotionally with an elongated shutdown. And they fear what will happen when the shutdown is lifted. Here are some of their voices. You can read all 200 interviews at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/.

a woman in her 50s from Racine County, Independent

Most important problem COVID-19

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? My husband has to work from home and I miss my alone time. His company’s business has slowed a bit so I worry about our finances if WI and the country don’t open back up soon.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Encourage social distancing and healthy habits.

a woman in her 60s from Dodge County, Democrat

Most important problem Coronavirus

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Can’t go out to eat. Can’t go to church. Can’t go to work. Can’t do anything

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Get a vaccine and open up the economy

a woman in her 50s from Winnebago County, Republican

Most important problem Dictatorship from politicians who have no business to make rules about who can work, where we can and cannot go and broken promises of government assistance

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Put me out of work for 4 weeks

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Keep their nose out of our business

a woman in her 60s from Washington County, Democrat

Most important problem The lack of universal health care and minimum universal income.

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? I stay at home and only go out once a week for groceries and therapy. It leaves me feeling isolated more often. I am also much moare anxious about the health of my family and myself.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? They should be sending more months of stimulus checks to families. Canada is sending $2000/month for 4 months. We should be doing that instead of hurrying to reopen states and in that way saying we don’t care how many more people die.

a man in his 30s from Waukesha County, Independent

Most important problem Loss of Freedoms

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Destroyed the last fraction of faith in humanity, I had left.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Nothing. They should butt out of the lives of their slaves…citizens.

a man in his 50s from Kenosha County, Republican

Most important problem Coronavirus Covid 19

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Great Family time together but wife and kids in education field have been hit hardest

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Stay safe at home but I think it’s to open America again

a woman in her 20s from Milwaukee County, Independent

Most important problem Right now it is the corona virus. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Most of us are not working right now. I am staying with my parents until the situation gets better.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? It’s tough to say. They aren’t handling it as well as they should be, but also things such as money are time sensitive. They should (and should have) been putting more focus on lower/middle class, smaller businesses.

a woman in her 30s from Milwaukee County, Independent

Most important problem Covid-19

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? My husband is out of work and my children are home from school. Losing half our income isn’t ideal.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? I think they are taking to proper steps. Obviously, this is something that we have never dealt with and the government is learning along with the public. Something new appears everyday.

a woman in her 70s from Dodge County, Republican

Most important problem Virus 19

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Other than having to stay in not much. We are on social security so we still get our checks. My husband is on hospice so we weren’t going away much before. The only thing that has really changed is our family can’t visit and we miss that.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Watch how many new cases are happening and start opening up going with that. We live in a rural area and there aren’t any cases in our immediate area. I think some area’s like hospital should start doing non emergency cases to start getting people back to work.

a woman in her 20s from Shawano County, Republican

Most important problem Power and greed, we the people are constantly being lied to and manipulated by the people in power. All so they can fill their bank account even more! Our leaders are not “for the people” they are “for the money”!

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Yes, I was laid off, then receiving unemployment benefits, then forced to go back to work because my employer got the PPP. Now they are taking advantage of free money by holding it over their employees heads and making us come back. Now they’re paying me almost HALF of what I was making before CV-19 and $400 less a week than I would have been getting on unemployment.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? My opinion changes daily of this virus because, again, we are constantly being lied to. We don’t know the actual truth so it’s very hard to say. Maybe open up but keep at-risk home?

a man in his 30s from Waukesha County, Democrat

Most important problem economy

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? lower salaries & finances

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? i have no idea; everything they are doing is going to hurt a lot of people financially

a woman in her 20s from Walworth County, Democrat

Most important problem The COVID19 pandemic and its management

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? My father and mother were laid off, and I have been working in a very different environment since I’m employed at a nursing home.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? I think that both public safety and economics should be taken into account. Businesses should be open but with some restrictions.

a man in his 50s from Green Bay region, Leans Democrat

Most important problem Currently, the most important issue is the response to the coronavirus/COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people are dying. The country must rally to fight this horrible illness and the government must make its decisions and lead the country based on science

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? I needed to have the test. Due to other conditions I have, I was presumed positive for the virus. Due to that, I was in isolation, in the hospital for 4 days.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Continue to enforce physical distancing and stay-at-home policies. If we relax things too soon, it will result in higher infection and death rates

a woman in her 20s from Jefferson County, Democrat

Most important problem Definitely the COVID-19 virus

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? I am currently unemployed and struggling financially and emotionally. My mom is very depressed and laid off.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? I sure don’t have all of the answers, but nothing has been enforced and people are not serious about social distancing.

a man in his 50s from Outagamie County, Republican

Most important problem economic and health disaster of Covid

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? yes, we had to close a business down

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? give clearer instructions on how and when business can open

a man in his 30s from Winnebago County, Republican

Most important problem The covid19 pandemic and getting our country back to normal.

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Not being able to see friends and family. Both our jobs are essential so that isn’t much of a change but changing what we like to do everyday has been hard. Also home schooling is a challenge.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? I think they are doing a fine job. Everybody needs to be patient with social distancing or this could all start over again.

a woman in her 20s from Waukesha County, Lean Democrat

Most important problem There are many, especially in times right now but I think unemployment and helping those who have been laid off etc. The process and time needs to be revised.

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Our hours have been shortened that we are open, so therefore mine have been too, so I am losing hours and pay.

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? Always easier said then done, but another stimulus check would be really helpful. Or waiving student loans. As for re-opening businesses, restaurants etc. I feel no matter what is done, people are going to be upset. There will be consequences no matter what, so it’s a difficult situation for sure.

a woman in her 30s from Milwaukee County, Republican

Most important problem COVID-19

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? Not able to work so money is getting tight. Husband is essential but due to me being a high risk person has been instructed to stay home as well

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? I have no Idea…I think the decisions being made are just and understandable. It may be hard, but like the Spanish Flu it is important that we do what we can to stop the spread. If that means staying at home and social distancing then I think it is the right decision. I do understand it is a hit to us and the economy but I would rather be alive then dead

Wisconsin voters remain intensely polarized over Donald Trump

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Writing this feels like the old SNL gag “Francisco Franco is still dead.” Attitudes toward Donald Trump are still polarized. Still, I think it’s worth pointing out that several months into the largest pandemic in a century, Donald Trump’s approval rating (in Wisconsin) hasn’t budged.

We’ve now conducted two polls during the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic shutdown in Wisconsin. Political opinion on actions taken by the state government has shifted, and Governor Tony Evers job approval has fluctuated by double digits in each poll.

But by now it is clear. Donald Trump has not benefited from a significant rally ’round the flag effect, nor has he seen any real decline in his popularity. His overall approval rating was net 0 in late February, -1 in late March, and -2 in early May. Tony Evers, by contrast, began with an approval rating of +12 in February; this jumped to +36 in late March, and fell back to +26 just a month later.

Net approval ratings of Donald Trump and Tony Evers
Poll dates Trump Evers
2/19-23/20 0 12
3/24-29/20 -1 36
5/3-7/20 -2 26

What’s remarkable isn’t just that Wisconsin voters have made up their minds about Trump. A large number of Wisconsinites hold intensely strong opinions about Trump. Wisconsin is often discussed nationally as the most divided state in the nation–the most likely “tipping point” in a national election. To an outsider this might suggest that Wisconsin is full of undecided, persuadable voters. Our data suggests otherwise. Wisconsin is just more narrowly divided between strong partisans than most other states.

In our latest poll we asked 8 questions assessing different aspects of Donald Trump’s job performance. They covered things from Trump’s handling of immigration to his policy decisions in response to the pandemic. I combined all of these questions to create one metric for intensity of Trump support. If a respondent evaluated Trump positively I gave them a score of 1. If they evaluated Trump negatively, they received -1. “Somewhat” positive or negative evaluations received a half point in the appropriate direction. A score of 8 means the respondent answered every question in the most pro-Trump way possible, and a score of -8 means the reverse.

Here are the results. Nineteen percent of Wisconsin registered voters gave Trump the worst score they could, and 13 percent gave him a perfect 8/8. Twenty-six percent rated him -7 or worse, while 23 percent gave him a 7 or better. About half of Wisconsin voters have an overwhelmingly positive or negative opinion of the president. Just 5 percent give him a neutral score within the range 1 to -1.

histogram showing the distribution of sentiment toward Donald TrumpHere is the average score given Donald Trump by different demographic groups in the state of Wisconsin. As expected, party and ideological identification have the strongest polarization. The most narrowly divided group of all in this survey are residents of the Milwaukee suburbs.

Most of the groups in this chart with average scores close to 0 are not, in reality, full of voters with neutral opinions on Trump. Often, they just have close to even mixes of strongly and oppositely polarized voters.

average Trump sentiment index for various demographic groupsConsistent with Joe Biden’s small (and within the margin of error) lead, Trump’s average rating in this survey was -0.5. Given the potentially decisive importance of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral college votes and the state’s historically razor-thin margins of victory, I anticipate that both Democrats and Republicans will pursue aggressive turnout and persuasion strategies this fall. Even a tiny set of voters could prove pivotal.

Milwaukee’s 2020 Property Assessments take their largest jump since 2006

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The 2020 total value of Milwaukee’s tax base is $31.4 billion, up $2.2 billion from 2019, but still $4.1 billion less than the peak in 2007. The city’s total assessment grew 7.6% from 2019 to 2020. This is the largest year-over-year increase since 2005-2006.

Unless stated otherwise, all values in this post are adjusted for inflation to current (2020) values using the Consumer Price Index.

In unadjusted (“nominal”) dollars, the city’s total 2020 valuation exceeded its 2008 peak for the first time. Homeowners who bought their properties near the top of the pre-Recession market will be glad to see their home values approach the sale price, but apart from this the nominal dollar comparison has little value.

line graph of Milwaukee's total assessed property tax base

By law, the assessments released in April 2020 are intended to reflect the value of the property on January 1, 2020, so they do not take into consideration the current economic turmoil facing the entire nation. As research from the Public Policy Forum has shown, municipalities in Wisconsin are disproportionately dependent on property taxes compared to local governments in other states. Usually this lack of a diversified income stream is a bad thing, but in this case it may shelter municipalities from even worse fiscal fallout for at least another year.

The residential picture

The average residential property assessment in 2020 was $115,700. The median home’s assessment grew 9.9% from 2019 to 2020, or $9,800. Home valuations increased for 82% of homes and decreased for 12%.

Among neighborhoods with at least 200 homes, values grew the most in Brewer’s Hill ($46,000 on average). Murray Hill, on the other side of the Milwaukee River, saw the largest decline ($9,000). Other neighborhoods with large increases include Harambee, Mount Mary, Maple Tree, and Riverwest. In addition to Murray Hill, property values declined in Riverside Park, Uptown, Clock Tower Acres, Granville Station, Washington Park, and Sherman Park.

There are a handful of neighborhoods where property values in 2020 are higher than in 2007. They include neighborhoods near the Lake such as Bay View, Fernwood, Harbor View, the Historic Third Ward, and Yankee Hill; the two near-north side neighborhoods of Triangle and Triangle North; and a cluster of far-northwest side developments near Dretzka Park.

These neighborhoods are by far the exception to the general trend. As of 2020, the median home in Milwaukee is assessed at 73% of it’s value in 2007–an average decline of $42,000.

Maps of property value changes by block

Click here for an interactive table showing the median values of residential properties in each Milwaukee neighborhood for the years 2000, 2007, 2019, and 2020.

Rally ’round the flag? It depends on the flag

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Nationally, Donald Trump’s approval rating has improved by a few points since mid-March. This could be due to a so-called “Rally ’round the flag effect,” in which, traditionally, a wartime president receives an upswell of support during times of national crisis. The archetypal example is George W. Bush after 9/11. His approval rating rose nearly 40 points, basically overnight.

Trump’s approval rating improved not at all in the latest Marquette Law Poll. In late February we found 48% of registered voters approved of his job and 48% disapproved. This month, we find 48% approve and 49% disapprove–not even close to a meaningful change. Given the dramatic results found elsewhere in the poll this could seem surprising. Are Wisconsinites so polarized that nothing can change their minds about politicians?

Not necessarily. The graph below shows the share of respondents who approved of Donald Trump’s job as President and Tony Evers’ job as governor in late February compared to the end of March.

  • Independents handed Evers and Trump identical boosts. Each politician grew 9 points more popular.
  • Democrats gave Evers a 10-point boost. Their dismal approval rating for Trump remained unchanged.
  • Republicans have the most interesting trend. They increased their support of Evers by 19 points, from 20% approving to 39%. Their approval of Trump actually declined from 95% to 88%. (This is right around the edge of the margin of error). Possibly explanations include statistical noise, dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, or a natural reversion from Trump’s peak intra-party support during the impeachment trial.

It seems Wisconsin voters are rallying around the flag; just in this case, it’s the Wisconsin flag.

An Anything But Normal Election

Posted on Categories Health Care, Lubar Center, Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on An Anything But Normal Election

In the press release for today’s Marquette University Law School Poll, you’ll find the following sentence: “Given the uncertainty created by historically high levels of absentee voting and the unknown levels of election day turnout, these results should be viewed with more than the usual caution.”

Poll Director Charles Franklin is referring specifically to the polling numbers in the Democratic presidential primary. But his note of caution seems wise as we careen toward next Tuesday’s election.

Put another way, we don’t know what we don’t know about this spring election.

After reporting, writing, and talking about Wisconsin politics for 40 years, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Continue reading “An Anything But Normal Election”

Coronavirus pandemic breaks through Wisconsin’s partisan divide

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School PollLeave a comment» on Coronavirus pandemic breaks through Wisconsin’s partisan divide

Pollsters and political observers of all stripes in the Trump era have grown used to the strong role party identification plays in shaping Americans’ perceptions of reality. To give one example, in October 2016 just 14% of Wisconsin Republicans said the economy had gotten better over the previous year. Just a few months later, after Donald Trump’s inauguration, 59% said it had. The proposed border wall with Mexico, the Mueller Report, Ukraine, impeachment–all have had the same bifurcated public response.

The current coronavirus pandemic is different. Majorities of all Wisconsin’s partisan groups are following the outbreak closely, are very concerned about the epidemic, and support the steps taken by state and local leaders thus far. There is a gap between Democrats and Republicans, but compared to the issues mentioned above, the gap is small.

The discussion below combines data from the Marquette Law School Poll conducted March 24-29 along with open-ended responses from 200 online panelists selected to match Wisconsin’s demographic makeup. These responses were collected over the same time period as the telephone poll. You can view all of the results from both surveys at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/.

Concern about the virus’ spread

Ninety-nine percent of Republicans, 97% of Independents, and 100% of Democrats are following the coronavirus outbreak at least “somewhat closely.”

How closely are you following the news about coronavirus?
Party ID Very closely Somewhat closely Not very closely Not following at all n
Republican 74 25 1 0 236
Independent 70 27 2 1 316
Democrat 87 13 0 0 255

Democrats are the most likely to be “very concerned” about an epidemic in the United States, but Republicans and Independents aren’t dismissing the risk either. Ninety percent of Republicans are at least “somewhat concerned,” compared with 92% of Independents and 99% of Democrats.

How concerned are you about a coronavirus epidemic here in the United States?
Party ID Very concerned Somewhat concerned Not very concerned Not concerned at all Don’t know n
Republican 56 34 8 3 0 236
Independent 61 31 6 2 1 316
Democrat 87 12 1 0 0 255

Democrats are also the most worried about personally experiencing COVID-19. But again, Independents and Republicans still express high levels of concern; 64% of each group are at least “somewhat concerned.”

Taking into consideration both your risk of contracting it and the seriousness of the illness, how worried are you personally about experiencing coronavirus?
Party ID Very worried Somewhat worried Not very worried Not worried at all Don’t know n
Republican 28 36 20 17 0 236
Independent 22 42 24 11 0 316
Democrat 44 42 10 4 0 255

Nearly every month, the Marquette Poll asks about 200 Wisconsinites to answer some free response questions online. Often we ask, “what do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” Usually, responses vary widely but not this time. More than 2/3rds of respondents volunteered something about the current pandemic, including equal shares of Democrats and Republicans.

Here are a few of their responses

an under-30 woman from Waukesha County, Independent

Most important problem: “Right now I think the important problem that this country is facing is the Corona virus.”

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “Well all of the part time workers in my family has been laid of temporarily so there’s no income from some of our family members.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “Honestly I can’t even say what they should do”

a woman in her 40s from Milwaukee County, Democrat

Most important problem: “Coronavirus and the confusion of how to handle it”

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “My daughter and I have been in the house since [redacted] because I am a teacher and she is a student where schools have been closed. We have done what we needed to do to live. We only shop for necessities once a week. I watch the updates on CNN everyday. I am concerned about returning to work and sending my daughter back to school in weeks since the doctors (experts) don’t share the same mindset as the one currently overseeing the US.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “The state and local government should continue to pay attention to data and make decisions based on data and not notions from the federal government”

a woman in her 60s from Ozaukee County, leans Republican

Most important problem: “The effects of the Covid-19 on people and the economy.”

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “We are self isolating and making minimal trips to stores.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “Delay the spring primary in WI. Can’t limit gatherings to 10 people and then have a primary where hundreds of people will come plus exposure to the poll workers. WI governor has been a leader in sheltering in place. But, can’t have it both ways with sheltering in place AND a primary election.”

a man in his 60s from Waukesha County, Independent

Most important problem: “A lack of civility = a lack of God individually and as a society”

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “Only not being able to meet together with other family members and with other believers.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “Not restrict the financial ability of the population and certainly NOT engage in election tampering (i.e. messing around with date of voting in person)!!!”

Many people’s lives have already changed

Many people in Wisconsin have already begun paying a steep economic cost for the state’s social isolation measures. We find that 9% of respondents have already lost a job or been laid off. A quarter have at least one family member who has lost a job. Work reductions are even more common. A fifth (21%) of respondents are working fewer hours due to the coronavirus outbreak. Twenty-six percent are being required to work from home.

Only 21% of Wisconsinites say none of these things have happened to them or their family. There is no difference in support for the state’s mandatory social distancing measures between people whose families have been affected this way and those who have thus far escaped unscathed. Even among those who have personally lost their jobs or had hours reduced, 82% say the state’s actions have been an appropriate response.

Here is what some Wisconsin voters had to say.

an under-30 woman from Racine County, Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “We are without jobs and our whole life seems like it has been cancelled.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “quarantine”

a man in his 30s from Waushara County, Democrat

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “We are isolated with our family, working from home with limited contact to the outside world. Where we are fortunate to have jobs, it’s been difficult at times without outside contact.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “I think they should keep people quarantined, but take steps to ensure they have adequate healthcare and that their economic needs are being met.”

a woman in her 50s from Shawano County, leans Democrat

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “I was working 3 jobs.. and now I am unemployed. My nephew who lives here just got laid off”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “Provide assistance for mortgages, utilities and quicker unemployment”

a woman in her 40s from Washington County, Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “yes we are all at home and some lost jobs”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “not sure”

a woman in her 30s from Winnebago County, Democrat

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “The isolation is causing emotional turmoil and we are suffering money-wise.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “I’m not sure.”

a man in his 30s from Kenosha County, Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “Yes we are forced to work from home and to stay home all week.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “I totally agree with their decision for them to mandate everyone staying home.”

a man in his 70s from Milwaukee County, Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “we feel locked up and fell like we are living in a communist country”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “ask people to be cautious but not demand stay at home or shut downs”

Support for government measures is strong

More than 8-in-10 Republicans and Independents as well as 95% of Democrats support the state’s mandatory social distancing measures. Thirteen percent of Republicans, 15% of Independents, and 2% of Democrats call these decisions an “overreaction.” Essentially the same numbers of each group agree that “the state or federal government should have the authority to limit public gatherings and store hours for public health emergencies.”

Do you think the decision to close schools and businesses, and to restrict the size of public gatherings is an appropriate response to the coronavirus outbreak or is it an overreaction that will do more harm than good?
Party ID Appropriate response Overreaction Don’t know Refused n
Republican 83 13 3 1 236
Independent 82 15 3 0 316
Democrat 95 2 2 0 255

Tony Evers’ approval rating now stands at 65%, up from 51% a month ago. The improvement has come from all partisan groups with the biggest increase coming from Republicans (+19).

Here are a few characteristic responses:

an under-30 woman from Winnebago County, leans Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “I am constantly stressed. I am pregnant, and work in healthcare. Both my husband and I are going to work everyday. We are both afraid of what the future holds for us and our child.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “Keep up with the social isolation. For one month keep everyone on the ‘safer at home’ plan. I work in healthcare, I think this will work to flatten the curve and keep our supplies up as much as we can.”

a man in his 60s from Brown County, Democrat

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “I am currently working from home and under quarantine and my family is stressed out and bored.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “They should let the health experts who know what they are doing handle it and let the president do his job.”

a woman in her 30s from Milwaukee County, Republican

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you and your family? “totally affected. I was diagnosed with a [health condition] in late November and have been out of work due to being diagnosed with [cancer] back in [redacted] and was finally getting better and was to start back to work [redacted] and due to the outbreak and my current [health condition] was advised by my doctor that I would not be able to go back to work on that date. so just when I thought I was going to get my life back coronavirus took that opportunity away from me.”

What should the state and local government do to deal with the coronavirus outbreak? “exactly what they are doing! keep people home and safe. the less opportunity there is for it to spread the sooner it will pass and we can all get back to our normal day to day.”

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have filed initial unemployment claims in the last several weeks. Our data suggests that almost 10% of Wisconsin registered voters had lost a job when we interviewed them, and even more are missing income from reduced working hours. Despite this, 44% of registered voters still expect the economy to get better next year; 34% expect it to get worse. Fifty-nine percent still say their families’ are “living comfortably,” compared with 30% “just getting by” and 10% “struggling to make ends meet.” If much of the country’s economy remains closed as expected over the next month or more, these numbers will surely worsen. As our open-ended interviews show, the pandemic is already harming Wisconsinites in profound ways. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Wisconsin enters the crisis with more agreement about the threat and more unity about the sacrifices needed to combat it than any other period in recent memory.