Marquette Law School Poll finds Baldwin, Obama gaining in Wisconsin

Baldwin pulls ahead in Senate race, Obama expands lead following conventions

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Rep. Tammy Baldwin taking the lead over former Governor Tommy Thompson in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat, by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin among likely voters. In the August 16-19 Marquette poll, the lead was reversed, with Thompson ahead by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin.

In the presidential race, President Barack Obama has seen a large post-convention bump, with voters preferring him to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 54 percent to 40 percent. In August Obama led 49 percent to 46 percent.

“These are both very large moves in just four weeks,” said Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “National polls and a number of state polls have also found a significant post-convention bounce in favor of Democrats.”

Much of the movement in the poll came among independents. In August independents preferred Thompson by 47 percent to 37 percent among likely Wisconsin voters. That reversed in September, with independents supporting Baldwin by 50 percent to 38 percent. Support among partisans changed only modestly for either candidate. Baldwin solidified her support among Democrats, winning 90 percent of their votes, up from 84 percent in August. Thompson maintained his support among Republicans with 93 percent of their votes, unchanged from 94 percent in August.

The presidential race saw similar shifts among independents, with Obama increasing his lead of 45 percent to 43 percent in August to 53 percent to 38 percent in September. Partisans continued to support their party nominee by 92 percent among Republicans and 95 percent among Democrats, unchanged from 93 percent and 97 percent in August.

Franklin cautioned, however, that there was also movement in the makeup of partisanship in the poll. In September Republicans made up 27 percent of the likely voter sample, down from an average of 30 percent across all eleven Marquette Law School polls conducted since January. Democrats made up 34 percent, up from an average of 32 percent. Independents were 37 percent of the September sample, the same as their average for the year.

“Our September poll makeup is about two points more Democratic and three points less Republican than average, which is within the margin of error,” said Franklin. If the sample were adjusted to match the yearlong average partisan makeup, both margins would tighten, with Baldwin leading 48 to 43 percent and Obama leading 51 to 43 percent.

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted September 13-16. The November matchups, based on a sample of 601 likely voters, have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Other results are based on 705 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Senate candidate images
The favorability ratings of the Senate candidates also shifted between August and September. In August Thompson was viewed favorably by 42 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 40 percent. In September his favorable rating fell to 39 percent with 48 percent unfavorable. Independents also contributed to this shift, moving from an even 42-42 split in August to a 35 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable rating in September.

Baldwin’s favorability ratings moved from 34 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable in August to 39 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable in September among likely voters. Independents rated her 31 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable in August. In September independents split evenly, 34-34 percent.

Both candidates improved their favorability ratings within their respective parties. In August Thompson was viewed favorably by 66 percent of Republicans, as was Baldwin by 66 percent of Democrats. In September the favorable rating was 77 percent for Thompson among Republicans and 73 percent for Baldwin among Democrats.

Presidential job approval
Obama’s job approval rating among registered voters stands at 54 percent, with 39 percent saying they disapprove of how he has done his job. In the August 16-19 poll, approval was 48 percent, with 45 percent disapproving. Fifty-five percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 39 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 36 percent, with 51 percent unfavorable. In the August poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 52 percent, with 43 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent.

Among likely voters polled, Obama’s rating is 55 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable, while Romney’s is 38 percent favorable and 54 percent unfavorable.

Views of the economy
Views of the economy are a mixture of positive and negative opinions. Twenty-eight percent of registered voters say the economy has improved over the past year while 33 percent say it has gotten worse, with 37 percent saying it has stayed about the same. Views of the next twelve months are more upbeat, with 47 percent saying the economy will improve and only 12 percent saying it will get worse. Twenty-seven percent expect the economy to stay the same.

On the question of whether “you and your family are better off than four years ago,” 47 percent say better off while 49 percent say they are not better off. Asked if “the country as a whole” is better off than four years ago, 46 percent say better while 52 percent say not better.

Asked about the effect of the recession on their personal financial situation, 27 percent say the recession had a major impact on them and that they have not yet recovered. Thirty-four percent say the recession had a major impact but that they have recovered from it, while 36 percent say the recession didn’t have a major effect on their financial situation.

On the question of who is responsible for the current economic problems, 30 percent say President Obama, while 55 percent say former President George W. Bush is responsible.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating among registered voters dipped to 46 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval. In August it was 50 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

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 705 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone September 13-16, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 601 “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 +/- 4.1 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results, and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at