New Marquette Law School Poll finds tight races in Wisconsin presidential primaries

Feingold holds lead over Johnson in U.S. Senate race

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds tight races among Wisconsin voters for both parties’ presidential nominations. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton receives 45 percent to Bernie Sanders’ 43 percent, with Martin O’Malley at 1 percent support, among those who say that they will vote in the April Democratic primary. In the November Marquette poll, Clinton held 50 percent, with Sanders at 41 percent and O’Malley at 2 percent.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is supported by 24 percent, followed by Marco Rubio at 18 percent and Ted Cruz at 16 percent, among respondents who say that they will vote in the Republican primary. Ben Carson is backed by 8 percent, with Chris Christie at 5 percent. Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina receive 3 percent each. Jeb Bush and John Kasich are each at 2 percent, with Mike Huckabee at 1 percent and Rick Santorum at 0. Carson led the Republican field in November at 22 percent, with Trump and Rubio each at 19 percent. Cruz was at 9 percent in the November poll.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold is supported by 50 percent of registered voters, with Republican incumbent Ron Johnson receiving 37 percent. In November, Feingold was at 49 percent and Johnson was at 38 percent.

The poll was conducted from January 21 to 24, 2016. The full sample included 806 registered voters interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points. Results for the Republican nomination are based on 313 respondents who say they will vote in the Republican primary in April. Results for the Democratic nomination are based on 312 respondents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary. Both party samples have a margin of error of +/- 6.5 percentage points. In the November poll, primary questions were asked of Republicans and Democrats regardless of their intention to vote in the April primary.

Republican primary voters were asked who they think is most likely to win the Republican nomination, regardless of whom they personally support. Forty-nine percent see Trump as the most likely nominee, followed by Cruz at 20 percent and Rubio at 10 percent. On the Democratic side, 65 percent think Clinton is the most likely nominee, with 27 percent saying Sanders is most likely to win the nomination.

In possible matchups for the November general election, Sanders leads Rubio by 11 points, Cruz by 12, and Trump by 18. Clinton edges Rubio and Cruz by 1 point each while holding a 9‑point margin over Trump:

  • Sanders 49 percent, Rubio 38 percent.
    (November: Sanders 46 percent, Rubio 42 percent.)
  • Sanders 50 percent, Cruz 38 percent.
    (Not asked in November.)
  • Sanders 52 percent, Trump 34 percent.
    (November: Sanders 52 percent, Trump 35 percent.)
  • Clinton 45 percent, Rubio 44 percent.
    (November: Clinton 44 percent, Rubio 45 percent.)
  • Clinton 45 percent, Cruz 44 percent.
    (Not asked in November. August 2015: Clinton 50 percent, Cruz 38 percent.)
  • Clinton 47 percent, Trump 38 percent.
    (November: Clinton 48 percent, Trump 38 percent.)

Substantial percentages of voters continue to lack opinions about the U.S. Senate candidates, with 41 percent saying they haven’t heard enough or don’t have an opinion about Johnson and 25 percent saying the same about Feingold. In November, 35 percent lacked an opinion of Johnson and 22 percent were without a view of Feingold. Johnson is rated favorably by 26 percent and unfavorably by 33 percent, while Feingold receives a 44 percent favorable and 30 percent unfavorable rating. In November, Johnson was rated favorably by 27 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent, while Feingold held a 43 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable rating.

Views on state issues
Guns continue to be an issue in both state and national politics. In 2012, three Marquette Law School Polls asked whether respondents favored or opposed “legalizing possession of concealed weapons” while such legislation was under debate. Between 46 and 47 percent supported legalizing concealed carry, while between 49 and 51 percent opposed the proposal. Concealed-carry legislation was passed and became law in 2012.

In the current poll, respondents were asked if they favor or oppose the “current law allowing residents to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns.” Sixty-three percent favor the current concealed-carry law, while 31 percent oppose it. Those with a gun in their household support the concealed-carry law by 80 percent to 18 percent, while those without a gun in the house oppose the law by 47 percent to 43 percent.

Respondents were also asked about a proposal to allow concealed-carry permit holders to have a gun on school grounds and for local school boards to have the option of allowing permit holders to enter schools with concealed weapons. On this issue, 31 percent favor the proposal while 65 percent are opposed. Among those in households with a gun, 38 percent favor the proposal while 57 percent oppose it. Among those without a gun in the household, 21 percent favor and 76 percent oppose the proposal.

Background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows have also been a recent issue in state and national debate. Eighty-five percent of registered voters favor background checks for private and gun show sales, while 12 percent oppose them. When last asked in May 2013, 71 percent favored and 26 percent opposed such checks. Among households with a gun, 84 percent favor and 14 percent oppose background checks for these sales, while among those without a gun in the household 89 percent favor and 9 percent oppose these checks.

Registered voters continue to express concern for education funding in the state. Fifty-seven percent say their local public schools are receiving too little funding from the state, while 30 percent say they receive enough and 7 percent say schools receive more funding than they need.

Asked how they would react “if your local school board proposed a referendum to increase taxes for schools,” 55 percent say they would be inclined to vote for the referendum while 35 percent say they would be inclined to vote against.

Voters have become somewhat more negative in their views of the economy since April 2015. Twenty-six percent say the economy has gotten better over the past year while 31 percent say it has gotten worse. In April 2015, opinion was reversed, with 31 percent saying the economy had improved over the past year while 26 percent said it had gotten worse. As for the outlook for the coming year, 27 percent expect the economy to improve while 25 percent say it will get worse. Last April, 31 percent looked for improvement with 18 percent expecting a downturn.

Approval of Walker
Approval of how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is handling his job stands at 38 percent with 57 percent disapproving. In November, 38 percent approved and 58 percent disapproved.

Thirty-six percent say they would like Walker to seek a third term as governor, while 61 percent would not like to see him run. In September 2015, 35 percent supported a bid for a third term while 62 percent did not.

Fifty-seven percent of Wisconsin registered voters favor allowing undocumented immigrants to stay and apply for citizenship, while 17 percent favor a temporary guest worker alternative and 21 percent favor requiring undocumented immigrants to leave the country. Across nine previous Marquette polls taken from 2012 to 2015, support for a citizenship option has averaged 53 percent, with 20 percent favoring a guest-worker option and 22 percent favoring deportation.

Thirty-six percent of respondents favor a temporary ban on Muslims from other countries entering the U.S., while 58 percent oppose such a ban.

Water quality
Nine percent of respondents say they have heard reports of contamination of drinking water in their county in the past two years, while 86 percent have not heard of any such reports.

Statewide, 27 percent have heard that the City of Waukesha is currently unable to meet state and federal standards for the amount of radium in its drinking water, while 72 percent have not heard. In the Milwaukee media market, 38 percent had heard of this. Twenty-five percent of residents in the City of Milwaukee have heard of the issue, while 62 percent of residents of Waukesha County have heard. The sample sizes are small in this case, with a margin of error of +/-12 percentage points for the City of Milwaukee and +/-14 percentage points for Waukesha County.

The City of Waukesha has submitted a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan for its water supply and return an equal or greater amount of treated wastewater to the lake. Thirty-four percent of respondents state-wide favor this proposal while 51 percent say the city should find other solutions. In the Milwaukee media market, 40 percent favor while 48 percent oppose the water diversion. In the Green Bay media market, 36 percent favor diversion and 46 percent oppose it. In the Madison market, 29 percent support and 52 percent oppose. In the rest of the state, including the La Crosse, Wausau and Minneapolis-area markets, 25 percent favor the diversion while 57 percent oppose it. Among residents of the City of Milwaukee 32 percent favor and 59 percent oppose the diversion, while among Waukesha County residents 56 percent favor and 35 percent oppose the diversion, with margins of error of +/-12 and +/-14 percentage points respectively.

Asked whether the primary objective of Great Lakes water management should be economic development or environmental protection, 12 percent say economic development and 77 percent say environmental protection.

Twenty-two percent of respondents say water quality issues such as that in Waukesha are mainly an isolated problem, while 72 percent say residents throughout the state should be concerned with water quality issues.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 806 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, January 21-24, 2016. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percentage points for the full sample. For Republican presidential primary voters, the sample size is 313, with a margin of error of +/-6.5 percentage points. For Democratic presidential primary voters, the sample size is 312, with a margin of error of +/-6.5 percentage points.

The partisan makeup of this sample, including those who lean to a party, is 42 percent Republican, 47 percent Democratic and 10 percent independent. The long-term estimate over the previous 31 statewide Marquette polls, with 26,727 respondents, is 42 percent Republican and 47 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup excluding those who lean to a party is 25 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic and 40 percent independent, compared to the long-term estimate of 27 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 38 percent independent.