Marquette Law School Poll finds tighter presidential race after Ryan selection

Thompson has lead in U.S. Senate race following primary win

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds the presidential race is tightening in Wisconsin following the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. The poll, conducted August 16-19, finds that 49 percent of likely voters say they will vote for Democratic President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, while 46 percent say they will vote for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and Ryan. In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, conducted August 2-5 before Ryan’s selection, Obama led 50 to 45 percent.

“The two-point shift in Romney’s direction is within the margin of error for the poll but suggests Ryan’s addition to the ticket may have slightly increased Romney’s chances in Wisconsin,” said Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

In the U.S. Senate race between former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Thompson holds a 50 percent to 41 percent advantage following his victory in the GOP primary Aug. 14. In the early August poll, Thompson led 48 percent to 43 percent.

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted August 16-19. The November matchups, based on a sample of 576 likely voters, have a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points. Other results are based on 706 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Impact of the Paul Ryan selection
Asked how they would rate Romney’s selection of Ryan, 31 percent said “excellent,” 27 percent “pretty good,” 16 percent “only fair,” and 19 percent said “poor.”

Asked if the selection of Ryan made them more likely to vote for Romney, 29 percent said more likely while 16 percent said less likely and 53 percent said it would not have much effect. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said Ryan’s selection made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 2 percent of Democrats said so. Among independents who said they don’t lean towards either party 23 percent said they were more likely now to support Romney while 17 percent said less likely and 54 percent said it made no difference.

Ryan’s selection as vice-presidential candidate has raised public awareness of him. In the July 5-8 Marquette Law Poll, Ryan was rated favorably by 36 percent, unfavorably by 29 percent, and 35 percent were unable to rate him. Since his selection, both his favorable and unfavorable ratings have increased by five percentage points, to 41 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable, with 24 percent unable to rate him.

Fifty-eight percent said Romney’s choice of Ryan reflects favorably on his ability to make important presidential decisions, while 31 percent said it reflected unfavorably.

Ryan is seen as qualified to serve as president, if that should become necessary, by 55 percent, and as not qualified by 37 percent.

Senate candidate images
Following the Republican primary, Thompson is viewed favorably by 40 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 38 percent, with 21 percent not giving a rating. Baldwin has ratings of 32 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable, with 31 percent unable to rate.

There is sharp division along party lines. Among Republicans, 62 percent have a favorable view of Thompson, with 14 percent unfavorable and 24 percent unable to rate him. Among Democrats, Baldwin has a 64 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable rating, with 30 percent unable to rate her. Images of the opposite party’s candidate are sharply negative. Among Democrats, 21 percent have a favorable view of Thompson, with 62 percent unfavorable and 17 percent unable to rate. Republicans give Baldwin a 5 percent favorable and 72 percent unfavorable rating, with 23 percent unable to rate.

Among independents, 40 percent said they had a favorable view of Thompson, while 38 percent said unfavorable, with 21 percent unable to rate. Independents gave Baldwin 28 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable ratings, with 37 percent unable to rate.

Vote choice is similarly polarized by party. Ninety-four percent of Republicans said they will vote for Thompson, while 3 percent pick Baldwin. Among Democrats, 85 percent support Baldwin with 11 percent for Thompson. Independents split 47 percent for Thompson and 38 percent for Baldwin.

Presidential job approval
Obama’s job approval rating stands at 48 percent, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of how he has done his job. In the early-August poll, approval was 50 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Fifty-two percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 43 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 35 percent, with 45 percent unfavorable. In the July poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent, with 42 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 36 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent.

The Future of Medicare
Wisconsin voters are conflicted about the future of Medicare. Respondents were offered two options:
Which of these two descriptions comes closer to your view of what Medicare should look like in the future?

Option A: Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits.
Option B: Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government would guarantee each senior a fixed amount of money to put toward health insurance. Seniors would purchase that coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans.

Fifty-five percent prefer Option A, the current Medicare system, while 38 percent favor Option B, which offers government support for the individual to purchase private insurance.

But when asked if the federal government can find ways to continue the current Medicare system or whether major changes are required because the current system is too expensive to continue, only 37 percent think the current system can be maintained while 55 percent think major changes are required.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rate remains virtually unchanged since early August, with 50 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval. Approval was 51 percent in the first week of August, with 44 percent disapproving.

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 a session of “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events will be held at Marquette Law School throughout the year. A video of that session can be viewed at

The poll interviewed 706 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone August 16-19, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 576 “likely voters,” i.e., those who said they were certain to vote in the November elections, with a margin of error for this group being +/- 4.2 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results, and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at