Marquette Law School Poll finds tighter U.S. Senate race and GOP primary

Obama continues to lead Romney in latest poll

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School poll finds the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination has tightened since mid-June. Former Governor Tommy Thompson continues to lead the race with support of 35 percent of likely primary voters, but businessman Eric Hovde now holds the support of 23 percent, up from the 14 percent he received in mid-June. Thompson’s support was 34 percent in the June poll. Former Congressman Mark Neumann is supported by 10 percent while Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is at 6 percent. Neumann was at 16 percent in June, while Fitzgerald was at 10 percent. A quarter of likely voters, 25 percent, remain undecided, the same as in the June survey.

In matchups for the November U.S. Senate election, Thompson receives 45 percent to Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s 41 percent, a difference that is within the margin of error of the poll. In June, Thompson had 49 percent to Baldwin’s 41 percent. When matched against Hovde, Baldwin receives 44 percent to Hovde’s 38 percent. Baldwin receives 43 percent to Neumann’s 40 percent. Baldwin also receives 43 percent to Fitzgerald’s 37 percent. All four matchups are within the margin of error. In mid-June, Baldwin and Neumann were tied at 44 percent each; Baldwin held a 45-36 advantage over Hovde and a 45-39 margin over Fitzgerald.

“The tightening of the race is consistent with other recent polls in the state,” said Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin. A poll earlier in the week by Public Policy Polling (PPP) also showed all the November Senate matchups within the margin of error. Unlike the Marquette Law School Poll, however, the PPP poll found Hovde at 31 percent to Thompson’s 29 percent. “We continue to see a significant Thompson lead, unlike PPP, but our findings are consistent with others that have shown substantial recent gains by Hovde and some slippage by Neumann,” said Franklin. “We differ on the size of the gains but agree on the momentum currently demonstrated by the Hovde campaign.”

In the presidential race, President Barack Obama leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent. In June, Obama had 49 percent to Romney’s 43 percent. The presidential race has remained stable since late May when Obama also led 51-43.

The poll was conducted July 5-8 by both landline and cell phone. The November matchups for 810 likely voters have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, while the result for 432 likely voters in the Republican primary has a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points.

Senate candidate images
Thompson remains the best known among likely Republican primary voters with a 58 percent favorable rating, 27 percent unfavorable and 14 percent unable to give a rating. Hovde receives a 34 percent favorable to 7 percent unfavorable balance, but 58 percent are still unable to give a reaction to him. Neumann’s rating is 34 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable, with 47 percent unable to rate, while Fitzgerald is at 28 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable and 61 percent unable to rate.

Wisconsin’s open primary system means that Democrats are free to vote in the Republican primary. In the April 3 Republican presidential primary, Democrats made up 11 percent of voters, according to exit polls. In the current Marquette Law School Poll, Democrats comprise 16 percent of likely August primary voters. The presence of Democratic voters makes relatively little difference to the results, however. Among Republicans who are likely voters, Thompson has the support of 35 percent to Hovde’s 22 percent, with Neumann at 13 percent and Fitzgerald at 8 percent.

Among Tea Party supporters, Thompson and Hovde are nearly tied, 29-26 percent, with Neumann and Fitzgerald both at 10 percent. Tea Party supporters make up 49 percent of likely primary voters. Among those who do not have a favorable view of the Tea Party, Thompson leads Hovde 41-19 percent, with Neumann at 10 percent and Fitzgerald at 3 percent.

Among those describing their political views as “very conservative,” Hovde holds 27 percent to Thompson’s 21 percent, with Neumann the choice of 17 percent and Fitzgerald at 9 percent. This group makes up 14 percent of likely primary voters. Among the 48 percent of primary voters who call themselves “conservative,” Thompson takes 41 percent, Hovde 25 percent, Neumann 8 percent and Fitzgerald 6 percent.

Presidential race and the economy

Obama’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. In the mid-June poll, approval was 52 percent with 43 percent disapproving. Fifty-one percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama while 42 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 36 percent with 42 percent unfavorable. In the June poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent with 39 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent.

Views of the economy are strongly associated with presidential vote. Among likely voters, 22 percent think that the economy has gotten better over the past year, and they support Obama over Romney by 77 percent to 15 percent. Among the 33 percent thinking that the economy got worse, 72 percent support Romney and 24 percent support Obama. Forty-two percent see no change in the economy, and they support Obama over Romney by 58-37 percent.

Looking to the future, 42 percent think the economy will improve over the next year, and they support Obama by a 66 percent to 28 percent margin over Romney. Among the 18 percent who expect the economy to worsen, Romney wins 71 percent to Obama’s 22 percent. Thirty-three percent expect the economy to stay about the same in the coming year. They give Obama 50 percent to Romney’s 44 percent.

As for their personal financial situation, 29 percent of likely voters said they had not recovered from the effect of the recession. This group slightly favored Romney over Obama, 48 percent to 45 percent. Among those who said that the recession had a major effect on their finances but that they had now recovered, Obama received 51 percent to Romney’s 44 percent. Thirty-three percent said the recession had not had a major effect on their finances, and they favored Obama with 54 percent to Romney’s 40 percent.

Income is also associated with vote. Romney wins 49 percent to Obama’s 46 percent in households earning over $75,000 per year. Among those with earnings between $40,000 and $75,000 Obama gets 52 percent to Romney’s 45 percent. For those earning under $40,000, Obama wins 61 percent to Romney’s 33 percent.

U.S. Supreme Court and health care reform
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on health care reform had little net impact on opinions of Wisconsin voters. Prior to the ruling, 46 percent of Wisconsin voters said that they approved of the way the U.S. Supreme Court was handling its job while 35 percent disapproved. After the ruling, 46 percent approved while 41 percent disapproved, a six-point increase in disapproval. Opinion about the health care law was also relatively unchanged after the ruling. Prior to the Court’s decision, 33 percent said they wanted the entire law upheld, 19 percent wanted only the individual mandate overturned and 38 percent wanted the entire law overturned. After the decision 33 percent supported the entire law, 21 percent wanted only the mandate removed and 36 percent said they wanted the entire law overturned.

While opinions about the health care law and overall approval of the court showed little net change, partisan views of the Court shifted substantially. Prior to the decision, Republicans approved of the Court by a 55 percent to 26 percent margin, while Democrats split 40-38. Forty-five percent of independents approved while 40 percent disapproved. A week after the Court’s health care decision, Republican approval fell to 32 percent with 56 percent disapproving, while Democratic approval rose to 57 percent with 30 percent disapproving. Independents moved to 50 percent approval and 38 percent disapproval.

Scott Walker approval ratings
A month after winning the recall election, Governor Scott Walker holds a 50 percent job approval rating with 44 percent disapproving. Partisan division remains strong, with 88 percent of Republicans approving and 80 percent of Democrats disapproving. Fifty-two percent of independents approve of Walker’s handling of his job while 41 percent disapprove.