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

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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

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“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

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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.

 

 

New Poll Shows Consistent Results Amid Changing Political News

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With all the tumult in the political picture for the nation in recent months, it seemed to make sense to anticipate interesting changes in public opinion in Wisconsin when the first round of Marquette Law School Polls results in more than four months was released on Monday.

But perhaps the most interesting result of the poll was how much had not changed over time, not in the last few months and in some cases not in recent years.

President Donald Trump’s job ratings? Among 800 registered voters in Wisconsin who were polled from Feb. 25 through March 1, 43 percent approved of Trump’s performance and 50 percent disapproved. In June 2017, the numbers were 41 percent who approved and 51 percent who disapproved.

Gov. Scott Walker? In the new results, 47 percent approved of how he is doing his job, 47 percent disapproved. In June 2017, the numbers were 48 and 48. And the results are in line with the long-term close-to-even split on Walker.

With the large amount of interest in gun-related issues in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 killings at a high school in Florida, has there been change in opinion on gun control proposals? Not very much. The new poll found 81 percent of Wisconsin voters in favor of background checks for gun sales at gun shows and in private settings. The last time the poll asked the question, in June 2016, the figure was 85 percent. A ban on assault-style weapons was supported by 56 percent in the new poll; in March 2013, the support level was 53 percent.

Immigration issues drew similar results in the new poll as in earlier polls. The new results showed 71 percent in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently working in the United States, and 86 percent in favor of a path to citizenship for those who are undocumented but who were brought to the United States as children.

But if the consistency of opinion was one of the main take-aways from the new poll, there were some results that showed change or that shed light on fresh issues. Three examples:

For one, the poll examined sentiment on the state offering more than $3 billion in support for building the Foxconn flat-panel display factory in Racine County. Overall, 38 percent of voters statewide think the plant will provide at least as much benefit as the state’s investment, while 49 percent think the state will pay more in incentives than the plant will be worth. Sentiment on Foxconn was more favorable in the Milwaukee area (outside the city of Milwaukee) than elsewhere in the state. Charles Franklin, director of the Law School Poll and the Law School’s professor of law and public policy, said that result  and related results on other Foxconn questions shed light on how people outside the Milwaukee and Madison areas are unhappy with policies they don’t see as benefitting their parts of the state.

A second point: The poll showed a noteworthy shift in sentiment toward funding public schools. In March 2014, voters were asked which was a higher priority for them, holding down property taxes or increasing spending on public schools. Forty-nine percent said reducing property taxes, while 46 percent said increased school spending. But in the new poll, 63 percent favored school spending increases while 33 percent chose reducing property taxes. That shift sheds light on the positions Walker and Republican legislators have taken in the last year that increased school spending.

A third point: There were signs of shifts in the partisan alignment of voters, including fewer voters identifying as Democrats and more identifying as independents who lean Democratic. But the percentage of votes who said they are “very enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s elections was higher among those planning to vote for Democrats than among those planning to vote for Republicans. Franklin said that could prove significant, just as at some past points greater enthusiasm among Republican voters preceded favorable election results for Republicans.

It was clear from the results that large percentages of registered voters have not tuned in yet to the races for governor and a United States Senate seat that will be on the ballot in November. Large majorities of voters had no opinions on the field of Democratic candidates for governor or the two main Republican candidates for the Senate.

Franklin said there is still a long way to go to the fall election and public awareness of the candidates will rise. He pointed out the Tammy Baldwin, who will be running as a Democratic incumbent in this year’s Senate election, had low name recognition at this point in 2012, when she went on to win.

However, the race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be decided in a month and fewer than a quarter of voters had an opinion, favorable or unfavorable, on either of the candidates who will be on the ballot, Rebecca Dallet or Michael Screnock.

To read full results of the poll, click here. To watch the one-hour “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at which Franklin presented the results, click here. The poll results received extensive news coverage. To read stories in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, click here or here.

 

 

 

 

 

Lubar Center and Its New Milwaukee Area Project Launched at Law School Conference

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Tuesday was a huge day for the future of the Milwaukee area, if you think developing strong, extensive knowledge on major issues is important and if you think coming together to work on dealing with those issues is important. Just ask R. T. Rybak.

Rybak, president/CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation and former mayor of Minneapolis, was the keynote speaker at a morning-long conference in the Lubar Center at Marquette Law School, which included  the debut of the Milwaukee Area Project, a long-term research project that will be part of the new Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.

The conference included ceremonies thanking Milwaukee philanthropists Sheldon and Marianne Lubar for the $7 million in grants that are providing an endowment to support the work of the public policy center. Continue reading “Lubar Center and Its New Milwaukee Area Project Launched at Law School Conference”

New Poll Gives Vivid Look into Polarized Political Perceptions

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Once again, a lesson in the two worlds of Wisconsin. That’s one way to describe the new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll released on Wednesday (June 28, 2017).

In one world, Donald Trump is doing well as president. In another, he is not. In one, he is keeping his promises. In another he is not. Opinions on Governor Scott Walker or Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin or House Speaker Paul Ryan? Split evenly. In all of these instances, Republicans are firmly on one side, Democrats firmly on the other. And the divisions  generally show little change since March, the time of the most recent prior Law School Poll.

How sharp is the divide? A few results:

Overall, 41 percent of the 800 Wisconsin registered voters who were interviewed approved of the way Trump is doing his job, while 51 percent disapproved. But among those identifying themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, Trump’s work was approved by 85 percent, with 8 percent disapproving. Among Democrats, 3 percent approved of how Trump was doing as president while 95 percent disapproved. Continue reading “New Poll Gives Vivid Look into Polarized Political Perceptions”

Wisconsin Grows, but Most Municipalities Shrink

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On May 25, 2017, the Census Bureau released its 2016 annual population estimates for subcounty geographic units.[1] This granular level of detail allows us to look more closely at where population change has occurred across the state.

As a whole, Wisconsin gained an estimated 91,419 people between July 2010 and July 2016—including 10,817 in the year ending July 2016. But these headline numbers obscure major variation across the state. Of the more than 1,850 cities, towns, and villages making up Wisconsin, 833 grew since 2010 and 986 of them shrank. Smaller places tended to get smaller, while bigger places got bigger. In 2010, 70 percent of the state lived in municipalities which would grow in the next six years, compared to just 30 percent in municipalities that would shrink. Much of this loss was concentrated in the northern region of the state, with the notable exception of several communities in Douglas County near Duluth, MN.

The map above shows the percent change in population for each Wisconsin municipality from 2010 to 2016.[2] The Green Bay/Appleton and greater Madison regions saw some of the highest growth, with additional sustained growth occurring in the Western part of the state including La Crosse, Eau Claire, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs. Nearly all portions of Marathon County surrounding Wausau have also experienced growth since 2010, although the City of Wausau itself declined marginally. This stands in stark contrast to nearby Rusk County, which lost 4 percent of its total population over the same time period. The only county to fare worse was neighboring Price County where the population declined by 4.5 percent. Dane County fared best with 9 percent growth, followed by tiny Menomonee (7 percent) and Green Bay area Brown County (5 percent).

Applying the same scale to just the past year’s change reveals similar, though necessarily less severe, trends. From 2015 to 2016 the City of Milwaukee lost an estimated 4,300 people, or about 0.7 percent of its population. Combined with a minor decline the year before, this essentially wiped out the city’s slight growth from 2010 to 2014.

Despite stagnant population size in places like Milwaukee and Wausau, Wisconsin’s growth is driven by its most populous communities. Municipalities with populations of at least 10,000 grew an average of 1.5 percent from 2010 to 2016. Municipalities with less than 1,000 residents shrank an average of 0.5 percent.

 

[1] Estimates are for July 1 of each year.

[2] I use the Census Bureau’s July population estimate base for 2010, not the decennial census. The technical unit of measurement in the map is Minor Civil Division (MCD), which corresponds with Wisconsin’s municipalities except in situations where municipalities cross county lines. In those rare cases, each county’s portion of the municipality is measured and mapped uniquely. Statistics in the report, however, reflect the total figures for each municipality.

 

Remember Us?

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It was a long time coming, but Wisconsin seems to have finally regained its “key battleground state” status in this year’s presidential election. At least for the moment, anyway.  For much of this election cycle, we’ve been missing out on the action, a second tier state that Democrats believed would be theirs on Election Day, never seriously in jeopardy.

If it takes two to tango, Wisconsin has been missing a dance partner.  While Republican nominee Donald Trump has been to Wisconsin five times, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton hasn’t been here once. It might be argued that given Clinton’s struggles in Wisconsin—a crushing primary loss in 2008 to then-Sen. Barack Obama and a 2016 April primary defeat which saw her lose 71 of 72 counties to Sen. Bernie Sanders—surrogates like Sanders and Chelsea Clinton might be more effective campaigners than the nominee herself. Whatever the reason, Clinton has focused her personal attention on other states. Her campaign only recently began running ads in Wisconsin, a true indicator of a state’s relative importance in the election.

But if you believe recent public opinion surveys in the first tier battleground states of North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio, the race has tightened considerably.  Wednesday, Real Clear Politics released its latest Electoral College “No Toss Ups” Map. Using the latest state-by-state polling, Clinton would squeeze out the narrowest of victories in the Electoral College, 273 votes for her, 265 for Trump.  Continue reading “Remember Us?”

The Polling Ends; Now Do Your Duty and Vote, Franklin Says

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It was the final release of Marquette Law School Poll results before the Nov. 8 election. That means Wednesday’s “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program attracted a lot of attention from news organizations and aficionados of understanding politics in Wisconsin and beyond.

That means that the reputation of the Law School poll, which has been built on a great record since 2012 of being very close to the mark in calling elections, is about to be put to the test again. The comparison between the final results and the actual outcome of an election is taken by many (not always fairly) as the measure of a poll.

And that means that Charles Franklin, the director of the Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy, had a few broader thoughts to share at the session in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall.    Continue reading “The Polling Ends; Now Do Your Duty and Vote, Franklin Says”

Poll Shows State’s Presidential Race Is Tight, So Where’s the Hot Campaigning?

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A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Tuesday, provided food for thought about one of the many curious aspects of this year’s presidential election.

The spotlighted finding of the poll was that the contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is tight in Wisconsin, a notch tighter now than three weeks ago and definitely tighter than six weeks ago. Among likely voters, Clinton leads Trump by two percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent. Among all registered voters, Clinton’s lead is five points, 43 percent to 38 percent. In either case, the race is close and the portion of voters who say they will vote and who are undecided who to vote for is larger than the gap between the candidates.

So where’s the hot campaigning? Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and a handful of other states are seeing a lot of Clinton and Trump in person and far more energized campaigns overall. Neither of the candidates has been in Wisconsin recently and the ground campaigns and television buys have been quiet here, especially compared to some past presidential campaigns. With 10 electoral votes, Wisconsin is neither the biggest nor smallest prize in the race, but those votes could make a big difference to the outcome, as some experts see the national map of the race. Continue reading “Poll Shows State’s Presidential Race Is Tight, So Where’s the Hot Campaigning?”

Marquette Law School Poll Reveals Public Perceptions Of Water-Related Issues

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Public perceptions of environmental risk have long been controversial when used as a tool to help set public policy.  Many scholars have argued that there is a fundamental “mismatch”[1] between “notoriously inaccurate”[2] public perceptions of the magnitude and sources of environmental risks, as compared with expert analyses of the same.  Even if that is true, public perceptionBanner logo - Earth in a drops would be worth measuring for other reasons: for example, studies have confirmed that “federal environmental laws reflect public perceptions of risks more than they do scientific understanding.”[3]  And just this year, a gathering of environmental law scholars discussing the future of environmental law stressed the increasing ethical obligation to consider (often marginalized) community voices, turning environmental law into “a tool for collaboration and connection . . . rather than conflict.”  In short, perhaps “public perceptions of environmental risk deserve more credit than comparative risk analysts admit.”[4]

Despite a general sense of “increasing public concerns about issues of water quality and the health of riparian environments,”[5] surprisingly few efforts have been made to quantify the level of public disquiet over these problems.  To help fill that gap in Wisconsin, two surveys were conducted in August 2016 by the Marquette Law School Poll, and find significant levels of concern over water quality and policy generally.  However, most Wisconsin voters reported lower levels of worry regarding their personal sources of drinking water.

Interest in Water Quality

Recent reporting has highlighted drinking water concerns across the state—including lead levels,[6] agriculture-related bacterial contamination,[7] and a failed legislative effort to ease municipal water system privatization.[8] Our survey results indicate that not only journalists are taking an interest in these topics. Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported hearing at least some about the lead crisis in the Flint, Michigan water supply. When asked about the safety of the water supply in Wisconsin’s own low income communities, 68% were very or somewhat concerned, 17% not too concerned, and just 13% not at all concerned. However, when asked about the safety of the water supply in their own community, respondents were more confident. A combined 56% were either not too concerned or not at all concerned, with another 44% being very or somewhat concerned.

Continue reading “Marquette Law School Poll Reveals Public Perceptions Of Water-Related Issues”