Rally ’round the flag? It depends on the flag

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School PollLeave a comment» on Rally ’round the flag? It depends on the flag

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.

Wisconsin voters give Trump different ratings on the economy and foreign policy, but it doesn’t affect his overall job approval among partisans

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School Poll, PublicLeave a comment» on Wisconsin voters give Trump different ratings on the economy and foreign policy, but it doesn’t affect his overall job approval among partisans

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all give Trump higher ratings on the economy than on foreign policy, but this doesn’t affect their overall approval of Trump among members of either party.

Trump approval ratings among different parties

Republicans only give Trump a net +58% approval rating on foreign policy, but his overall net job approval matches that of his economic job approval (+83% and +84%, respectively).

Inversely, Democrats give Trump a net -78% rating on the economy, but their overall job approval is identical to their foreign policy approval at -94%.

Independents are more mixed. They give Trump a +8% net rating on the economy and a -31% rating on foreign policy. His overall approval lies in the middle at -10%.

Public Views of the U.S. Supreme Court: A Marquette Law School Poll and Conference

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School Poll, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Public Views of the U.S. Supreme Court: A Marquette Law School Poll and Conference

US Supreme Court

On October 21, the Marquette Law School Poll will release the results of a nationwide survey of public opinion about the Supreme Court of the United States. How much do citizens know about the Court? How informed are they about the Constitution? What, if anything, do they think of the justices? With respect to recent decisions of the Court, how much of the public supports or opposes the Court’s rulings? How much is opinion of the Court and its decisions based in partisan or ideological affiliations of voters? Do opinions of the Court influence presidential-vote choices? Does the public see the Court as legitimate? The Marquette Law School Poll Director, Professor Charles Franklin, will present the results of a unique national survey devoted entirely to knowledge and opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

We will then present three panels of reaction or reflection about the survey or the general topics that it implicates. Panelists will include the following:

  • from the bench and bar, Judge Diane S. Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Peter D. Keisler, co-leader of Supreme Court and Appellate practice, Sidley Austin, Washington D.C.; and Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., partner in Foley & Lardner and adjunct professor of law at Marquette University
  • from the academy, Professor Lawrence Baum (political science), The Ohio State University, and author (with Neal Devins) of The Company They Keep: How Partisan Divisions Came to the Supreme Court (Oxford 2019), and Tara Leigh Grove (law), William & Mary, author of The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Dilemma, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 2240 (2019)
  • from the press with deep experience with respect to the Court, Robert Barnes (Washington Post) and Carl Hulse (New York Times and author of Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington’s War over the Supreme Court, From Scalia’s Death to Justice Kavanaugh (Harper & Collins 2019))

Other participants will include my Marquette colleagues, Chad M. Oldfather, professor of law, and Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy. We regard this survey as an opportunity to offer not just opinion from the public but also a variety of explanations to the public about how the judiciary, or the Supreme Court in particular, comes to decisions.

Since its establishment almost eight years ago, the Marquette Law School Poll has developed a substantial national reputation. This latest survey, too, will be a public good, and it should be of considerable lasting interest.

Please join us at Marquette Law School, in Eckstein Hall’s Lubar Center, for the conference (Monday, October 21, 8 a.m.–1:30 p.m.). Registration is required and available here. Questions may be directed to Rita Aleman, program manager of the Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.

Franklin Says Poll Results Show Shift Toward Republican Identification

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School Poll, PublicLeave a comment» on Franklin Says Poll Results Show Shift Toward Republican Identification

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. Continue reading “Franklin Says Poll Results Show Shift Toward Republican Identification”

Do primary voters strategically vote in the opposition’s primary?

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School Poll, PublicLeave a comment» on Do primary voters strategically vote in the opposition’s primary?

Periodically political enthusiasts express concern that members of a particular political party will conspire to swing the result of the opposing party’s primary election by strategically voting for a candidate who does not express the actual will of that party’s “real” voters. This form of bad-faith strategic voting is sometimes called party raiding.

Party raiding is only feasible in states with open primaries, and fear of it is sometimes used as a argument in favor closed primary systems, which only allow registered partisans to vote in their respective primaries.

Wisconsin is an open primary state. In fact, the state’s Election Commission maintains no records of party affiliation whatsoever. Every party’s primary contests share space on a single ballot. Voters choose their preferred party in the privacy of the voting booth. No state presents fewer barriers to strategic party raiding than Wisconsin.

Nonetheless, there is no evidence that this kind of voting behavior occurs at all in Wisconsin. As I mentioned, registered voters do not have the option to formally affiliate with a party in Wisconsin. We can, however, measure party identification through public opinion data.

I pooled the results of three Marquette Law School Polls preceding the 2016 presidential preference vote and three surveys preceding the 2018 partisan primary. The combined dataset includes 3,515 likely voters. Each respondent was asked if they planned to vote in either the Republican primary, the Democratic primary, or if they didn’t plan to vote at all. We also recorded answers from respondents who insisted they would vote in “both” primaries, even though this would result in a spoiled ballot if carried out.

Respondents were also asked if they “usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent.” Those who answered “independent” were then asked, “Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party or to the Democratic Party?” We consider those who answered affirmatively as “leaning” partisans.

Here is how each partisan group planned to vote in the upcoming primary.

Stated intentions of Wisconsin primary voters by party ID, data from 2016 and 2018
partyID Republican primary Democratic primary Won’t vote Both Don’t know Refused
Rep 89 2 5 1 3 0
Lean Rep 77 4 9 1 7 1
Ind 25 16 17 3 36 4
Lean Dem 7 75 8 1 9 1
Dem 2 89 5 1 3 0

An identical share (2%) of Republicans and Democrats planned to vote in the other party’s primary. Even if this tiny share of people were indeed “party raiding,” they cancelled each other out. But there is no good evidence suggesting they weren’t voting in good faith. In the following general elections the share of self-identified Democrats or Republicans voting for a nominee of the other party exceeded 2%, so it’s quite likely that some share of self-identified Democratic voters genuinely preferred one of the Republican primary candidates and vice versa.

More Help Urged for Those Making “Re-entry” from Incarceration

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Marquette Law School Poll, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process2 Comments on More Help Urged for Those Making “Re-entry” from Incarceration

“When does the sentence end?“  Albert Holmes says he often faces that question as he works to help people who have been released from incarceration and who are re-entering the general community.

Holmes, president and CEO of My Father’s House, was one of the speakers Thursday, Oct. 4, at a conference at Marquette Law School that focused on what can be done to provide paths for more people in those situations to establish stable lives.

The conference, “Racial Inequality, Poverty, and Criminal Justice,” drew an audience that included two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, several circuit judges, prosecutors (including Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm),  defense attorneys, and many who work in agencies that try to help those getting out of prison or jail or who are advocates on issues involved with the subject.   Continue reading “More Help Urged for Those Making “Re-entry” from Incarceration”

Violent Crime Versus Property Crime: Law School Poll Reveals Notable Differences in Public Opinion

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Marquette Law School Poll, Public, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process1 Comment on Violent Crime Versus Property Crime: Law School Poll Reveals Notable Differences in Public Opinion

Public opinion polls typically find a preference for tougher treatment of defendants in the criminal-justice system. However, few polls attempt to disaggregate types of crime. When laypeople are asked what they think should be done with “criminals,” their responses are likely based on the relatively unusual violent and sexual offenses that dominate media coverage of crime. However, punitive attitudes toward such offenses may not necessarily indicate that similar attitudes prevail more generally.

In order to develop a better understanding of the extent to which public attitudes differ based on crime type, I collaborated with Professor Darren Wheelock of the Marquette Social and Cultural Sciences Department on a set of questions in the most recent Marquette Law School Poll. Rather than asking respondents about crime in general, we posed questions regarding violent crime and property crime. Our results were consistent with the expectation that members of the public see these two types of crime in a rather different light.

Continue reading “Violent Crime Versus Property Crime: Law School Poll Reveals Notable Differences in Public Opinion”

Partisan Divides Are Vivid in New Law School Poll Results

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on Partisan Divides Are Vivid in New Law School Poll Results

“If there’s a subtitle to today’s presentation, it is partisan differences.”

That comment from Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, as a new round of poll results was released Wednesday at Eckstein Hall, spotlighted a striking and important aspect to public opinion in Wisconsin (and probably across the United States). In short, there are two different worlds of perception on what is going on when it comes to politics and policy.

Start with the most obvious example, opinions of President Donald Trump. Overall, 42 percent of registered voters polled in Wisconsin approved of Trump’s job performance and 50 percent disapproved. In polling a month ago, it was 44 percent and 50 percent. Since Trump took office, those numbers have not varied much.

But break it down by partisanship and there’s a canyon of difference. Among Republicans, 86 percent approve of how Trump is doing as president and 8 percent disapprove. Among Democrats, 3 percent approve and 93 percent disapprove. Continue reading “Partisan Divides Are Vivid in New Law School Poll Results”

The Developing Shape of August Primaries Comes into View in New Poll Results

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School Poll, PublicLeave a comment» on The Developing Shape of August Primaries Comes into View in New Poll Results

The results of the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Wednesday, June 20, showed both how long a time and how short a time two months is as an election approaches.

The primary on Aug. 14 will decide which of a large field of Democrats will race incumbent Republican Scott Walker in the November election for governor and which of two Republican candidates will face incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the election for a US Senate seat.

How long is it until Aug. 14? The poll, conducted through telephone interviews with 800 registered voters statewide from June 13 to 17, found that large majorities said they did not know enough about or did not yet have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of every one of the candidates in the top spotlighted contests. The figures ranged from 61 percent to 94 percent. Large portions of the public haven’t yet felt the election is close enough to require a lot of attention.

On the other hand, now that the clock is under two months, interest in the poll results, including news coverage of the findings, is increasing. While the general public may not have tuned in strongly yet to the campaigns, those who are involved know time is running short. Increasingly active campaigning and advertising almost surely will lead to more voters knowing the people running for office by the time Aug. 14 arrives. Continue reading “The Developing Shape of August Primaries Comes into View in New Poll Results”

Facts and History — But No Predictions — as Program Sets the Political Scene

Posted on Categories Lubar Center, Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on Facts and History — But No Predictions — as Program Sets the Political Scene

Set aside (for the moment) the poll numbers, the partisanship, and the passion and analyze the facts and data.

That was the goal of an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program on Thursday, June 14, at Marquette Law School that was a bit unusual. How so? The guests were Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and John Johnson, research fellow for the Law Schools Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education, but, unlike the large majority of such sessions, particularly involving Franklin, they didn’t have any fresh poll results.

Instead, the goal, as Franklin put it, was to look at the lay of the political landscape, both in Wisconsin and beyond. Results from four special elections so far in 2018 for legislative seats in Wisconsin and from the statewide election of a Supreme Court justice offered the opening insights on current Wisconsin voting patterns. But the discussion expanded to encompass results from more than 300 elections nationwide since the 2016 presidential election and to look at history going back as far as the 1860s.

Franklin and Johnson showed the degree to which Democrats generally had gained ground since 2016 in election results in Wisconsin and nationwide. But Franklin looked at historical trends that show how the party of a sitting president usually loses ground in mid-term elections. What is shaping up for this fall’s elections may (or may not) be more in line with historical patterns than many people think.

One interesting insight: On average, Franklin said, the opposition party has gained 24 seats in the US House of Representatives in mid-term elections. And for the Democrats to gain control of the House this year, they need to gain 24 seats. That means it’s anyone’s guess which party will have the majority in the House after November. Or, as Franklin put it, “uncertainty is the order of the day.”

Franklin looked at the history of the impact on mid-term election of factors such as a president’s popularity, change in the national gross domestic product, unemployment rates, and the results of polling that asks people a generic question (with no candidate specified) about which party they hope will win the upcoming election. Based on history, some of those indicators suggest good prospects for Democrats – and some don’t.

The four special legislative elections in Wisconsin this year, as well as the Supreme Court election (assuming you assign partisan interpretation to it), each showed Republicans doing worse and Democrats doing better than they did in recent elections, Franklin and Johnson showed.

Some suggest that the low turnout in those races reduces the weight that should be put on such trends. Johnson analyzed results of special elections compared to general elections broadly and found that the differences in outcomes between the low turnout and high turnout elections were not as great as many people assumed.

But Franklin said a shift toward Democrats in the legislative elections in Wisconsin this fall wouldn’t necessarily mean changes in which party controls each legislative house in Madison. For example, few legislative elections in recent years have been settled by five percentage points or less, he said, so a five point shift toward Democrats might not change the winning party in many cases.

The first round of results for the Marquette Law School Poll since March is set to be released on Wednesday (June 20). It will include results for the Democratic primary for governor and the Republican primary for a US Senate seat. The pace of campaigning (and polling) will accelerate through the coming months.

But at this point, Franklin said, it was good to pause and look at the bigger and historical perspective.

“The main thing I want to leave you with is uncertainty (about what lies ahead), but I want you to appreciate why we are uncertain and how these different indicators are pushing in different directions,” Franklin said.

To view video of the one-hour conversation, click here. To get information on the poll release program at Eckstein Hall on June 20, click here.