Poll Shows State’s Presidential Race Is Tight, So Where’s the Hot Campaigning?

A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Tuesday, provided food for thought about one of the many curious aspects of this year’s presidential election.

The spotlighted finding of the poll was that the contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is tight in Wisconsin, a notch tighter now than three weeks ago and definitely tighter than six weeks ago. Among likely voters, Clinton leads Trump by two percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent. Among all registered voters, Clinton’s lead is five points, 43 percent to 38 percent. In either case, the race is close and the portion of voters who say they will vote and who are undecided who to vote for is larger than the gap between the candidates.

So where’s the hot campaigning? Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and a handful of other states are seeing a lot of Clinton and Trump in person and far more energized campaigns overall. Neither of the candidates has been in Wisconsin recently and the ground campaigns and television buys have been quiet here, especially compared to some past presidential campaigns. With 10 electoral votes, Wisconsin is neither the biggest nor smallest prize in the race, but those votes could make a big difference to the outcome, as some experts see the national map of the race.

Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Law School Poll and the Law School’s professor law and public policy, was asked about the paradox of a close race and tepid campaigning by a television reporter after the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at which the poll results were released. Franklin offered no simple answer. There has been an intense focus on several other states. And a factor is Trump’s unusual campaign, which is built almost entirely on personal appearances at rallies and news coverage of the campaign rather than ”the ground game” and paid television ads at the heart of conventional campaigns. Franklin also said during the program with Gousha that the presidential debates, which begin on Monday, Sept. 26, could have more impact on the race this year than in many other presidential contests.

The results released Wednesday offered some insights into what voters are thinking in Wisconsin. Among them:

The campaigns of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are attracting some attention and support, but their poll numbers remain fairly small. And the margin between Clinton and Trump remains almost the same whether voters are asked to choose between only the two major candidates or between all four candidates.

A large majority of Republicans and independents who lean Republican (68 percent) still say they would have liked the party to nominate someone other than Trump. And more Wisconsin Democrats and people leaning Democratic (48 percent) wish Bernie Sanders had been nominated by the party than Hillary Clinton (43 percent). About a third of voters who wish someone other than Trump or Clinton were their party’s nominee indicated they would not vote for either of the major candidates.

There has been some moderation in views about the two presidential candidates, but they each still has high negative numbers. In this poll, Clinton is viewed favorably by 43 percent of all registered voters and unfavorably by 50 percent, compared to figures of 35 percent and 58 percent in late August. Trump is viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 61 percent, compared to late August figures of 28 percent and 63 percent.

A majority of voters (51 percent in this poll) continue to say they would be “very uncomfortable” with Trump as president, while 42 percent would be “very uncomfortable” with Clinton as president.

In the US Senate race between Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger (and former senator) Russ Feingold, Feingold continues to lead. The new results had Feingold over Johnson 47 percent to 41 percent among likely voters and 46 percent to 40 percent among all registered voters. Those margins compared to figures from three weeks ago of a three point Feingold lead among likely voters and a four point lead among all registered voters.

With a bit under seven weeks to go until the election, a campaign season that has brought so many surprises and raised so many questions is likely to have more surprises to spring and questions to consider. For Wisconsin, a key question will be whether the closeness of the presidential race will be matched by the energy of the campaigns themselves and the heat of public interest the race generates.

July, August, November: New Poll Results Portray Shifting Election Currents

It’s July again in Wisconsin. What does that say about November?

Most likely, it says that the two big political contests in Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes for president and a US Senate seek at stake, are not done-deals and that there will be continuing volatility among voters and intense campaigning by candidates for the next 10 weeks.

You can think of this as July in terms of the results of the Marquette Law School Poll. A new round of results, released on Wednesday, showed that both the presidential and Senate races had tightened since the most recent round of polling three weeks earlier. And the bump that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received in the early-August poll, conducted shortly after the national political conventions and amid a series of troubled developments for the Republican candidate Donald Trump, is gone. “The electorate in Wisconsin has returned to about where the vote stood in July, prior to the conventions,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at Marquette Law School.

After a series of troubled developments for Clinton in recent weeks, her numbers were less favorable on a range of questions and she and Trump were back in a close race. The poll found Clinton ahead in Wisconsin by five percentage points among registered voters and three percentage points among likely voters.

Trump continued to have poor but generally stable results on questions such as whether you have a favorable opinion of him, whether you think he is honest, and whether you would be comfortable with him as president. But Clinton’s results on those questions were not much different than his.

In the Senate race, Democrat Russ Feingold led Republican Ron Johnson by four percentage points among all registered voters, down from six points three weeks earlier. And Feingold led among likely voters by three percentage points, down from eleven points in early August. Those results were also more like the July results than the early August results.

Franklin said trends to keep an eye on in coming weeks will include indicators of voter turnout. The new poll showed an increase in Republicans intending to vote and a decrease in Democrats intending to vote. The changes were not large, but they could be enough to be important.

Interesting results in the new poll include two sets of data. One shows that Trump is winning in Wisconsin among higher income voters while Clinton is doing well among middle and low-income voters. That differs from some commentaries that have painted many Trump supporters as lower income. A second set shows Trump winning among the nearly-half of all those polled who think the next generation of Americans will not have as good a life as the current generation, while Clinton does well among those who are more optimistic about the future or think it will, at least, not be worse than the present.

Near the end of the program three weeks ago when poll results were released, a member of the audience asked if, in reality, the presidential and Senate races were as good as over in Wisconsin. Franklin said then that he wouldn’t agree with that and things change during the course of a campaign.

At the session this week, no one asked a question like that, and it was clear that Franklin was right.

Full results of the new poll may be found by clicking here. Video of the hour-long “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at which Franklin presented results may be viewed by clicking here.