Marquette Law School Poll finds Walker leads Barrett in Wisconsin recall

Obama leads Romney in latest poll

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School poll finds Governor Scott Walker with 52 percent to Mayor Tom Barrett with 45 percent among 600 likely voters in next week’s recall election. That lead falls slightly short of statistical significance. The poll was taken May 23-26, with most interviews completed before last Friday’s first gubernatorial debate, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch had 46 percent and Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell had 41 percent, with 11 percent not expressing a preference. The margin in the Lt. Governor’s race is not statistically significant.

The seven-point advantage for Walker was statistically unchanged from the six-point margin two weeks ago in the Marquette Law School poll taken May 9-12, when Walker had 50 percent to Barrett’s 44 percent.

Among all registered voters the margin is six points, with Walker at 50 percent and Barrett at 44 percent. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.

In the presidential race President Barack Obama received 51 percent to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 43 percent among likely voters.


Perceptions of the jobs situation in the state have shifted over the past two weeks. In the latest survey, 38 percent think the state has gained jobs in the last year, while 30 percent say the state has lost jobs, with 29 percent saying jobs are about the same. In the survey two weeks ago, only 20 percent thought the state had gained jobs, while 37 percent said it had lost jobs. Voters also said Walker would be better at creating jobs than Barrett by a 50 percent to 43 percent margin.

Asked about the impact of limiting collective bargaining for public employees, 39 percent thought it had decreased jobs in the state while 28 percent thought it had increased jobs, with 26 percent seeing no effect. Asked about the impact of legislation “reducing regulation and offering incentives to business” to stay or move to the state, 43 percent thought this had increased jobs while 14 percent thought it had decreased jobs and 35 percent saw no effect.

Candidate images

Walker holds a 51 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable image among voters, with just 3 percent unable to give an opinion. Walker’s job approval rating is similar, with 51 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval. For Barrett, 41 percent have a favorable opinion to 46 percent unfavorable, while a larger 11 percent are unable to give an opinion. In the Lt. Governor’s race, Kleefisch receives a 30 percent favorable to 33 percent unfavorable rating, with 36 percent unable to rate her. Opinions of Mitchell were 17 percent favorable, 12 percent unfavorable and 71 percent unable to express an opinion.

There are some ambivalent feelings about how Walker has done his job as governor. Asked which statement comes closest to their view of how Scott Walker has done as Governor, 39 percent said, “I like what he’s done,” while 38 percent said, “I don’t like what he’s done.” Twenty-one percent said, “I like what he’s done but not how he’s done it.”

Voters’ views of the direction of the state are on balance positive though still quite divided. Fifty-two percent say the state is “going in the right direction,” while 44 percent say “things have gotten off on the wrong track.” In “[t]hinking about all the changes in state government over the past year,” 54 percent said “Wisconsin is better off in the long run” because of the changes, while 42 percent said the state was worse off in the long run.

Some issues favor each party

The public remains divided over issues. Asked if they favor or opposed each of six issues, majorities said they opposed cuts to spending for education by a 67 percent to 29 percent margin, and opposed limiting the number of people eligible for health insurance through the BadgerCare program by a 57 percent to 33 percent majority. Majorities supported increases in public employee contributions to health and retirement benefits, with 75 percent in favor and 22 percent opposed. Sixty-one percent favored requiring a government-issued photo id to vote, while 37 percent opposed that. A smaller majority, 55 percent, said they favored limiting collective bargaining for most public employees, while 41 percent opposed such limits. A subsequent question found a closer division on collective bargaining, with 50 percent wanting to keep the current law on bargaining and 45 percent wishing for a return to the previous law prior to last year. The public split on legalizing possession of concealed weapons with 49 percent opposed and 47 percent in favor.

Voters also favored both increased taxes on the wealthy and limits on state spending. Asked to agree or disagree with the statement “The middle class in the state won’t catch a break unless we ask the rich to pay their fair share,” 65 percent agreed and 31 percent disagreed. When asked whether “[t]he middle class in the state won’t catch a break unless we get state spending under control,” 77 percent agreed while 17 percent disagreed.

John Doe Investigation

Seventy-seven percent of voters say they have heard or read about the John Doe investigation of former aides and associates of Scott Walker while he was Milwaukee County Executive. Of those who had heard of the investigation, voters split almost evenly, with 46 percent saying the investigation is “really something serious” and 47 percent saying it is “just more politics.”

Voter participation

Voters remain highly engaged in political activity, with 54 percent saying they had tried to convince someone how to vote, and 26 percent displaying a yard sign or bumper sticker. As in previous polls, about a third, 34 percent, said they had stopped talking about politics with someone because of conflict over the recall.

The campaigns and parties have also been very active. Seventy-eight percent of registered voters said they had been contacted by a campaign over the last 17 months, and 58 percent said they had been contacted in the last week. Of those saying they had been contacted, 14 percent said the contact supported Democrats, 23 percent said it favored Republicans and 59 percent said they had been contacted by both sides.

Republicans are more likely to say they are “absolutely certain to vote” on June 5, at 92 percent, while 77 percent of Democrats say this. Eighty-four percent of independents say they are absolutely certain to vote.

U.S. Senate candidates

With the gubernatorial recall drawing most attention, views of the candidates for U.S. Senate have changed little since last asked on the March 22-25 Marquette Law School Poll. Democratic U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin has a 26 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable rating, with 47 percent unable to give an opinion. Former Governor Tommy Thompson holds a 46 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable, with 16 percent unable to rate. Former congressman Mark Neumann received a 26 percent favorable to 23 percent unfavorable rating, with 51 percent unable to rate him. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald was seen favorably by 18 percent and unfavorably by 26 percent, with 55 percent unable to give an opinion. Businessman Eric Hovde was seen favorably by 15 percent and unfavorably by 13 percent, with 72 percent unable to say.

Presidential race

President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 52 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove. Fifty-five percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama while 41 percent say unfavorable. Governor Romney’s favorable rating stands at 40 percent with 47 percent unfavorable. The presidential vote among likely voters moved to 51 percent for Obama and 43 percent for Romney. In the May 9-12 poll, the race was tied 46-46 percent.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Running monthly through the 2012 election, it provides a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the gubernatorial recall election and the campaigns for president and U.S. Senate, in addition to gauging opinion on major policy questions.

The results of today’s poll were discussed at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events will be held at Marquette Law School throughout the year.

The poll interviewed 720 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone May 23-26, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points for the full sample. There are 600 “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Results for vote in the Governor, Lt. Governor and presidential races are reported for likely voters. All other results are for the full sample of 720 registered voters. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at