New Marquette Law School Poll finds Biden lead over Trump increasing, high support for Black Lives Matter and declining concern about COVID-19

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MILWAUKEE — A new Marquette Law School Poll of Wisconsin registered voters finds Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with 49 percent support and Republican incumbent Donald Trump with 41 percent. Ten percent say that they would vote for neither, don’t know how they would vote or declined to say.

In May, Biden was supported by 46 percent of voters and Trump by 43 percent, with 10 percent not choosing either.

The poll was conducted June 14-18, 2020. The sample included 805 registered voters in Wisconsin, who were interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

The trend in the presidential vote since January is shown in Table 1. The June poll is the largest Biden margin in Marquette polls in 2020. The closest matchup was in February, with Biden and Trump tied at 46 percent.

In the new poll, Trump’s overall job approval declined to 45 percent, with 51 percent disapproval, which compares to May when 47 percent approved and 49 percent disapproved. His job approval during 2020 is shown in Table 2. Trump’s approval was last this low in August 2019, when approval was 45 percent and disapproval was 53 percent.

Approval of Trump’s handling of specific issues varies considerably, even though his overall approval has stayed in a narrow 41 to 48 percent range during his presidency.

Approval is lowest for Trump’s handling of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody. Thirty percent approve of Trump’s handing of the protests, and 58 percent disapprove. Eleven percent say they don’t know.

Approval of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak is 44 percent, and disapproval is 52 percent, with 3 percent who don’t know. In May, 44 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved.

Trump receives the strongest support for his handling of the economy, with 50 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval and 3 percent who don’t know. In May, 54 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved of his economic policies.

Support for Trump declined among Republicans in June, while opposition grew among independents. Support slightly increased among independents who lean Republican, and slightly decreased among independents who lean Democratic and Democrats, as shown in Tables 3 and 4.

In May, Trump led Biden among Republicans 93 percent to 1 percent. In June, his lead over Biden was 83 percent to 8 percent among Republicans.

Independents had preferred Trump over Biden in May by 34 percent to 27 percent. That preference reversed in June, with Biden supported by 38 percent to Trump’s 30 percent.

Similar shifts, since May, in Trump’s job approval by party identification are shown in Tables 5 and 6, where approval slipped among Republicans and reversed among independents. In May, 50 percent of independents said that they approved of Trump’s job performance and 36 percent disapproved. In June, that shifted to 36 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval. Approval among Democrats and independents who lean Democrat, both already very low, declined slightly. Only independents who lean Republican saw slight increases in approval.

Views of the candidates

Thirty-nine percent say “cares about people like me” describes Trump, while 57 percent say this does not describe Trump. Forty-six percent say this phrase describes Biden, and 42 percent say it does not describe him.

Trump is viewed favorably by 42 percent and unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, while Biden is seen favorably by 44 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent. The trends in favorability for each candidate are shown in Tables 9 and 10.

Views on race and police

The death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests and a renewed debate over police tactics and policy. In Wisconsin, views of these issues vary, and there are substantial differences in perception by race.

Sixty-one percent approve of the mass protests since the death of George Floyd, while 36 percent disapprove. Among Black respondents, 74 percent approve and 24 percent disapprove. Eighty-one percent of Hispanic respondents approve and 13 percent disapprove, while 59 percent of white respondents approve and 38 percent disapprove of the protests.

Police are viewed favorably by 72 percent and unfavorably by 18 percent. The Black Lives Matter movement is seen favorably by 59 percent and unfavorably by 27 percent.

There is a large gap in the perceptions of the police between white and Black Wisconsinites. Among white respondents, 76 percent have a favorable view of the police, and 15 percent have an unfavorable view. In sharp contrast, among Black respondents, the police are viewed favorably by 39 percent and unfavorably by 49 percent. Among Hispanic respondents, views fall in between those of whites and Blacks, with 50 percent favorable and 38 percent unfavorable.

Views of the Black Lives Matter movement are highly positive among Black and Hispanic respondents, with a smaller majority of white respondents also holding a favorable view. Among Black respondents, 81 percent have a favorable view and 10 percent an unfavorable view. Among Hispanic respondents, 73 percent have favorable and 6 percent have unfavorable views of the Black Lives Matter movement. Among white respondents, 57 percent have a favorable and 29 percent have an unfavorable view.

The experience of encountering police is also strikingly different across racial groups. Overall, 86 percent say the police make them feel mostly safe, while 11 percent say police make them feel mostly anxious. Among Black respondents, 43 percent feel mostly safe and 44 percent feel mostly anxious about the police. White respondents feel little anxiety, with 90 percent feeling mostly safe and 8 percent feeling mostly anxious. Among Hispanic respondents, 72 percent feel mostly safe and 28 percent feel mostly anxious about the police.

Large differences across race emerge in views of the police use of force, both in general and in light of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Forty-two percent say the police in general are too willing to use deadly force, while 51 percent say they are not. Among Black respondents, 68 percent say the police are too willing to use deadly force and 25 percent say they are not, while among white respondents, 38 percent say police are too willing and 54 percent say they are not. Among Hispanic respondents, 71 percent say police are too willing and 29 percent say they are not too willing to use deadly force.

Recent killings of Black Americans by the police are seen as isolated incidents by 44 percent of respondents and are seen as part of a larger pattern of how police treat Black Americans by 48 percent. Among Black respondents, 8 percent say these killings are isolated, while 86 percent say they represent a broader pattern. Among white respondents, 47 percent say these are isolated incidents, and 44 percent say they are part of a broader issue. Twenty-six percent of Hispanic respondents say these are isolated incidents, and 72 percent see a broader pattern.

Views of what to do about the police depend heavily on how the question is worded. “Calls to defund the police” are supported by 23 percent and opposed by 70 percent. In sharp contrast, when asked about “calls to restructure the role of the police and require greater accountability for police misconduct,” 81 percent support such changes, while 16 percent oppose this.

Among Black respondents, “defund the police” is supported by 45 percent and opposed by 41 percent. Among white respondents, 20 percent support and 73 percent oppose “defund the police.” Support for “defund” is 57 percent among Hispanic respondents and opposition is 36 percent.

There are much smaller differences across racial groups on the calls to “restructure” the police. Eighty-three percent of Black respondents support “restructure,” with 13 percent opposed. Among white respondents, 80 percent support and 17 percent oppose “restructure.” Support for “restructure” among Hispanic respondents is 97 percent, with none opposed.

Among all respondents, racial prejudice against Black people is seen as a very serious problem by 41 percent, as somewhat serious by 37 percent and as not serious or not a problem by 19 percent. Black and Hispanic respondents see a much more serious problem than do white respondents. Eighty-eight percent of Black respondents see prejudice as a very serious problem, as do 66 percent of Hispanic respondents, while 37 percent of white respondents say this is a very serious problem. Five percent of Black respondents say prejudice against Black people is little or no problem, as do 12 percent of Hispanic respondents while 21 percent of white respondents see little or no problem. The full crosstab of views of prejudice by race is shown in Table 11.

Coronavirus epidemic and impact

Worry over personal risk from COVID-19 has declined each month since March. In the June poll, 19 percent say they are very worried about COVID-19 and 36 percent are somewhat worried, while 21 percent are not very worried and 24 percent say they are not at all worried. In May, 25 percent were very worried, 35 percent somewhat worried, 20 percent not very worried and 19 percent not at all worried. The full trend since March is shown in Table 12.

In the June survey, 72 percent say that it was appropriate to close schools and businesses and restrict public gatherings, while 25 percent say this was an overreaction to the pandemic. In May, 69 percent said closures were appropriate and 26 percent said this was an overreaction, while in March, 86 percent said closures were appropriate and 10 percent said this was an overreaction,

Approval of Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of the coronavirus issue has also declined, with 58 percent who approve and 37 percent who disapprove. In May, 64 percent approved and 32 percent disapproved, while in March, 76 percent approved and 17 percent disapproved.

While concern over the virus and support for policies to reduce the spread of the disease have declined over the last three months, Wisconsin voters nonetheless now expect a much longer epidemic than they had once anticipated. Twelve percent say the coronavirus outbreak is now under control, 10 percent say it will be under control by the end of August and 16 percent say it will be under control sometime next fall. Forty percent say it will take about a year and 13 percent say it will take more than a year to control the epidemic. In March, many more, 44 percent, thought the epidemic would be under control by the end of May and 27 percent said by the end of August. At that time, 11 percent said the epidemic would be under control sometime next fall, while 7 percent thought it would take about a year and 2 percent said more than a year.

Views on reopening

There is considerable variation in what activities people say they are comfortable doing now that the Safer at Home order is no longer applicable.

With the new school year on the horizon, 54 percent say they are comfortable with letting students return to school in the fall, while 38 percent are uncomfortable with reopening schools.

A substantial 83 percent say they would be comfortable visiting a friend or family member’s home, while 16 percent would not be comfortable doing this.

Sixty-five percent say they would be comfortable shopping at a mall or large retail store such as Target or Walmart, although 34 percent would not be comfortable shopping.

Eating out at a restaurant is something 49 percent are comfortable with, while 49 percent are not comfortable with that.

Most people are uncomfortable with attending sports events such as baseball, basketball or football, a concert or a play: 33 percent are comfortable and 65 percent are uncomfortable attending large gatherings of this kind.

Looking to the national party conventions in August, including the Democratic convention in Milwaukee, 39 percent say both conventions should meet in-person, while 53 percent say they should not be held as in-person events.

Economic impact

Reported job loss is slightly lower in the June poll than in the May survey, with 13 percent saying they have lost a job. Twenty-seven percent say someone in their family, other than themselves, has suffered a job loss. In May, 15 percent reported having lost a job, with 33 percent saying someone else in their family had lost a job. Table 13 shows the trend in job loss.

Work hours have been reduced for 24 percent of respondents. Forty percent say some other family member has had work hours reduced. These results are little changed since March, as shown in Table 14.

Twelve percent say they have applied for unemployment insurance, and 30 percent say this has happened to some other family member. This question was not asked in earlier surveys.

Views of the direction of the economy have turned sharply down, with many more people saying the economy has gotten worse over the past year, although the outlook for the next 12 months has become substantially more positive since May. Tables 15 and 16 show the recent trends in these measures.

While many respondents have lost jobs or had working hours cut, there has not been a surge in reports of financial distress. However, those who have lost jobs or had family members lose jobs report substantially higher levels of financial insecurity, as shown in Tables 17 and 18.

Those who have had work hours reduced also report less financial security than those who have not had hours reduced. This result is shown in Table 19.

Black respondents have been especially hard hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic. Compiling the March, May, and June polling, 29 percent have lost a job, and 43 percent have had a family member other than themselves lose a job.

These job losses have pushed the financial situation of Black respondents into greater insecurity. In January and February, 41 percent of Black respondents said they were living comfortably, 48 percent said they were just getting by and 10 percent said they were struggling. In the combined March through June data, the percentage living comfortably was only a little lower, 37 percent, but those just getting by fell to 40 percent and those struggling rose to 22 percent.

Black people in Wisconsin have also suffered disproportionately high COVID-19 infection and death rates, compared to other groups, and this is reflected in higher worry about being affected by the disease. Among Black respondents in the combined March through June data, 44 percent are very worried about the consequences of being infected with COVID-19, while among white respondents, 23 percent are very worried. Hispanic respondents fall between the two groups, with 33 percent very worried.

Views of state officials

Job approval for Evers stands at 54 percent, with disapproval at 38 percent. Six percent say they don’t have an opinion. In May, 59 percent approved and 33 percent disapproved.

The recent trend in job approval of the governor is shown in Table 20.

Tables 21-23 present the recent favorability ratings of Evers, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and the percentage of respondents who haven’t heard enough or say they don’t know.

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 805 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone from June 14-18, 2020. The margin of error is +/-4.3 percentage points for the full sample.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 45 percent Republican, 44 percent Democratic, and 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 31 percent Republican, 29 percent Democratic, and 39 percent independent.

Since January 2017, the long-term partisan balance, including those who lean to a party, in the Marquette Law School Poll has been 45 percent Republican and 45 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. Partisanship exuding those who lean, has been 30 percent Republican and 29 percent Democratic, with 40 percent independent.

The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at