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” between “notoriously inaccurate” public perceptions of the magnitude and sources of environmental risks, as compared with expert analyses of the same. Even if that is true, public perceptions 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.” 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.”
Despite a general sense of “increasing public concerns about issues of water quality and the health of riparian environments,” 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, agriculture-related bacterial contamination, and a failed legislative effort to ease municipal water system privatization. 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”
To the general public, water is “an issue that’s obscure under normal circumstances,” Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy, said at the end of the major conference on water issues this week (Sept. 7, 2016) at the Law School.
Franklin was commenting on the relatively mixed level of concern about water issues found in responses to several questions in the Law School Poll’s results from late August. For many people, you turn on the faucet, drinkable water comes out, and you’re likely to pretty much take this for granted.
But then, Franklin said, there are disasters that demand great attention and drive perceptions.
The Law School’s conference, “Public Policy and American Drinking Water,” drew a capacity audience to the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. Both among the speakers and members of the audience, the room was filled with experts and leading activists on water issues – as well as interested members of the public, Marquette undergraduate and graduate students, and a dozen high school students.
And as Franklin suggested, the conference offered some controversial content of great public interest – namely, discussion of issues around lead in drinking water in Flint, Mich., Milwaukee, and elsewhere – and quite a bit of lower-key discussion around important water issues that don’t attract so much attention (the state of groundwater supplies, pricing and valuation of water, and the role of private ventures in water delivery systems). Continue reading “Conference Offers Light — and Some Heat — on Gamut of Crucial Water Issues”
It’s July again in Wisconsin. What does that say about November?
Most likely, it says that the two big political contests in Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes for president and a US Senate seek at stake, are not done-deals and that there will be continuing volatility among voters and intense campaigning by candidates for the next 10 weeks.
You can think of this as July in terms of the results of the Marquette Law School Poll. A new round of results, released on Wednesday, showed that both the presidential and Senate races had tightened since the most recent round of polling three weeks earlier. And the bump that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received in the early-August poll, conducted shortly after the national political conventions and amid a series of troubled developments for the Republican candidate Donald Trump, is gone. “The electorate in Wisconsin has returned to about where the vote stood in July, prior to the conventions,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at Marquette Law School.
After a series of troubled developments for Clinton in recent weeks, her numbers were less favorable on a range of questions and she and Trump were back in a close race. The poll found Clinton ahead in Wisconsin by five percentage points among registered voters and three percentage points among likely voters. Continue reading “July, August, November: New Poll Results Portray Shifting Election Currents”
A member of the audience had a question Wednesday after Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, completed presenting the results of a new round of poll results.
“Isn’t it a fair statement that, between us guys, the presidential race is about over?” he asked.
Franklin responded, “I’m not there.” He added, “When we look at all of the presidential races since the ‘90s, where we have pretty good data, we actually see most of those showing some real rises and falls over time. . . . I think it’s a bit of hubris to think that whatever we believe today is unchangeable, that no event can matter.”
That important point made, the new results, based on polling from August 4 to 7, showed movement since the last Law School Poll a month ago that left Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a wider lead than before over Republican candidate Donald Trump. In broad terms, Clinton’s numbers improved in the period that included the Democratic national convention and Trump’s numbers changed little or slipped in the period that included the Republican convention. Continue reading “New Poll Shows Wider Clinton Lead, But It’s Not Over, Franklin Says”
In the Marquette Law School Poll conducted earlier this month, fifty-nine percent of registered Wisconsin voters agreed that marijuana “should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol.” Only thirty-nine percent disagreed.
Support for legalization in Wisconsin follows the recent decisions to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and in Oregon and Alaska in 2014. Nationally, support for legalization has grown steadily since the early 1990s and finally crossed the fifty-percent threshold in 2013. (On the local level, the Public Policy Forum published a thoughtful assessment of the costs of marijuana enforcement in Milwaukee earlier this year.)
In the Law School Poll, respondents were asked which arguments for legalization they found most convincing.
Continue reading “Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization in Law School Poll, But Results for Other Drugs Harder to Interpret”
The word for the day was “smidgeny” when a new round of Marquette Law School Poll results were released on Wednesday.
“I think smidgen is a word I’m going to wear out today because these differences are truly smidgeny,” Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at the Law School, said as he walked the audience at Eckstein Hall and online through the results of polling done from July 7 to 10.
A lot of the numbers on the presidential race, the US Senate race in Wisconsin, and other matters did not change much in recent weeks, even as major events focused on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump occurred.
Overall, Clinton continued to lead Trump in Wisconsin among both all registered voters and those who are likely to vote. Democrat Russ Feingold continued to lead Republican Ron Johnson in the Senate race. Margins were in single digits, but Franklin said there was enough movement in answers to some questions to indicate both races are tightening.
And even if the numbers didn’t change much, the light that the poll results shine on what is happening remains strong. Franklin pointed to several important themes people should keep in mind as the campaign season unfolds in Wisconsin and nationwide. Among them: Continue reading “New Poll Results: Even “Smidgens” of Change Provide Insight”
“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”
Maybe the famous line that the comedy team of Laurel & Hardy used in several movies in the 1920s and ‘30s will emerge as a key theme for voter opinion of the 2016 presidential election.
A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Wednesday, offers an eye-catching set of facts about voter unhappiness with both of the presumptive choices for major party nominations for president. In fact, the results suggested that slipping enthusiasm about voting, particularly among Republicans, may become a major factor in the outcome in November.
How unhappy are voters? Here are a few pieces of the bigger picture that emerged from interviews between June 9 and 12 with 800 registered voters across Wisconsin (666 who were labeled likely voters, based on saying they were certain to vote): Continue reading “Voter Unhappiness Comes Through in New Law School Poll Results”
There are ways in which the volatility of the current political scene seeped into the release Wednesday of the latest round of Marquette Law School Poll results. But there are more ways it didn’t.
An extraordinary time in American politics has brought an extraordinary week in Wisconsin politics, with the state’s presidential primary on April 5 standing as the next major event on the political calendar. All five of the remaining major candidates for president have spent at least two days in the state this week, with several developments of national significance occurring on our home turf.
The passions of thousands attending events with Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the political drama of the battle (including insults) between Trump and Ted Cruz, the search by Hillary Clinton for ways to build more fire behind her support in Wisconsin, a three-hour “town hall meeting” with Trump, Cruz, and John Kasich, telecast by CNN from Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater – this is just aa partial list of events in Wisconsin this week.
So stakes are high as Wisconsin returns to being a battleground in the presidential race. High stakes bring high tension and high levels of partisanship.
And then there was a release of the poll at Eckstein Hall, with Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy at the Law School, leading a tour of the new results. Calm. Level-headed. Insightful. Strictly non-partisan. Much the same as several dozen poll-release events since the Marquette Law School Poll started in 2012. Continue reading “At a Time of High-Charged Events, New Law School Poll Sheds Even-Handed Light”
We’ll leave it to others to analyze the results of the latest Marquette Law School Poll and what they tell us about the April 5 presidential primary. Instead, let’s focus for a few moments on the other favorite political pastime in Wisconsin: Debating the fortunes of Governor Scott Walker.
His job approval rating remains well under water. But is it possible that the governor could be smiling, even just a little, after today’s release of the Law School survey?
At first glance, it’s yet another poll where Walker fares poorly. Fifty-three percent of registered Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker’s job performance. Only 43 percent approve. But the numbers are finally showing signs of improvement for Walker. He hit a low of 37 percent job approval last fall, shortly after his presidential campaign flamed out. Since then, his job approval number has hovered around 38 or 39 percent in Law School polling. But the new survey shows Walker back in the low 40’s. Nothing to shout about, but progress in what most observers see as a long, hard slog back to more solid political ground. Continue reading “Finally, a Little Good News for Governor Walker”
Goodness, those Donald Trump poll numbers – they do take my breath away. And the Hillary Clinton numbers do much the same.
The release Thursday of a new set of Marquette Law School Poll results brought a wave of interesting insights into public opinion in Wisconsin, as it always does.
But the degree to which Trump and Clinton are polarizing figures, the subject of both great support and great opposition, goes beyond the word “interesting.” It’s vivid history being made in front of our eyes, especially with each in good position to win nomination. A Clinton-Trump showdown for the presidency in the fall – it’s an amazing but somewhat likely prospect. Continue reading “New Poll Results Illuminate a Year That Goes Beyond “Interesting””
It was baseball great (and quotation legend) Yogi Berra who said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
And as Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, says, a poll is only a snapshot of public opinion at the time the questions were asked.
So let;s not get carried away with assuming what lies ahead, based on the results of the Marquette Law School Poll that was released on Thursday.
But the fresh round of poll results offers some windows for looking toward what is going to happen in Wisconsin politics, not only in 2016 but in following years. Continue reading “New Law School Poll Results: What Does the Present Say About the Future?”
At a time when there is so much talk about angry voters, what’s the reality?
The Marquette Law School Poll released on Thursday showed that “outsider” candidates for president such as Republicans Ben Carson and Donald Trump, are doing well at this point in Wisconsin. So is Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who, although he is a senator, embraces the term “socialist” and is running a campaign heavy on criticism of Wall Street interests. Many commentators have linked their success to voters who are frustrated with politicians who have been part of the governing establishment.
The new set of poll results provided empirical evidence to support the talk of angry voters.
Charles Franklin, director of the poll and the Law School’s professor of law and public policy, told the audience at the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at which the poll results were released that there really were signs of anger toward government as a whole, as well as some signals that voters weren’t as alienated from candidates with more traditional backgrounds. Continue reading “Empirical Evidence of Voter Anger Found in New Law School Poll”