Independence of Voters Yields Surprises in Law School Poll Results

It probably shouldn’t be such a surprise that independent votes would show their independence. But the Marquette Law School Poll results released Wednesday in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall clearly caught people in the room, as well as far beyond the room, by surprise. Independent voters were largely the reason why.

Two weeks ago, the poll put Republican Gov. Scott Walker ahead of Democratic challenger Mary Burke by five percentage points among likely voters. This time, the two were in such a dead heat among likely voters that the exact same number of poll respondents picked Walker and Burke (380 each). That made for a 47%-47% tie, with the scattered responses making up the remainder.

What changed? Among voters who labeled themselves independents, Walker led in the prior Marquette Law School Poll, conducted late September, by 53% to 40%. But in the new poll, conducted from Oct. 9 through 12, Burke was favored by 45% of independents and Walker by 44%. Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, considered that a significant shift and an indication that there were still voters out there who are persuadable by either candidate – potentially enough to decide the election.

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The Marquette Law School Poll’s Version of the Sounds of Silence

The big story coming out of the release Wednesday of a new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll was that Republican Gov. Scott Walker had opened up a bit more distance over Democratic challenger Mary Burke that was seen in recent rounds of polling. Among likely voters, Walker was supported by 50% and Burke by 45%. As Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll said, this is still a close race. But there were indicators of some trends in Walker’s direction.

Both in the news media (for sure in Wisconsin and, in some cases, nationally) and within the world of political activists, the poll results will be analyzed carefully to see what people are saying. The Marquette Law School Poll has become the principle source of information on Wisconsin public opinion on major issues, especially political races.

But instead of focusing on what people are saying, permit me here to focus on what people are not saying. Politics, even in the midst of a heated election season, is not of interest to everyone. So here are a few examples of non-involvement:

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