Marquette Law School Poll shows Walker in tight race with Burke for Wisconsin governor in 2014

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds that, just over a year from the election, the 2014 Wisconsin governor’s race is shaping up to be very competitive. Gov. Scott Walker polls at 47 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Mary Burke’s 45 percent, a difference that is within the margin of error of the poll.

Burke officially entered the race Oct. 7. State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who has said she will decide whether to enter the race in early 2014, receives 44 percent support to Walker’s 47 percent, also inside the margin of error. State Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca receives 42 percent support to Walker’s 48 percent.

The poll surveyed 800 Wisconsin registered voters Oct. 21-24 by both cell phone and landline. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

The public has yet to form strong impressions of Burke, a Madison school board member, former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive. Seventy percent of registered voters in the poll say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Burke, while 17 percent have a favorable impression of her and 14 percent an unfavorable one.

In contrast, only 4 percent are unable to give a rating to Walker, with 50 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable. Vinehout is seen favorably by 10 percent and unfavorably by 10 percent, with 79 percent unable to rate her, while Barca is viewed favorably by 9 percent and unfavorably by 9 percent, with 82 percent unable to give a rating.

Walker and Burke both receive strong support within their party, with Walker getting 94 percent of the vote among Republicans and Burke supported by 88 percent of Democrats. Independents split 48 percent for Walker to 41 percent for Burke, with the remainder undecided or not planning to vote. Walker leads among those calling themselves “conservative” or “very conservative,” 72 percent to 21 percent, while Burke leads among self-described “moderates,” 46 percent to 42 percent. Among those who consider themselves “liberal” or “very liberal,” Burke leads 88 percent to 9 percent.

Women prefer Burke by 49 percent to 42 percent for Walker, while men prefer Walker by 52 percent to 40 percent for Burke. This gender gap is slightly smaller for Vinehout, whom women prefer by 47-43, while men go for Walker 51-42. When Barca is the Democratic candidate, women prefer him by 46-43, with men preferring Walker 54-38.

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, said, “The gender gap is due in part to the fact that women are more likely to identify themselves as Democrats, rather than purely a response to the candidates.”

While 28 percent of both men and women call themselves Republicans, 35 percent of women consider themselves Democrats, with 29 percent of men doing so. Thirty-three percent of women call themselves independent versus 41 percent among men.

Among all registered voters, 49 percent say they approve of Walker’s handling of his job as governor while 47 percent disapprove. In July, 48 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved.

Perceptions of economic conditions

Jobs continue to be an issue in the state with 41 percent saying the state is lagging behind other states in job creation, while 37 percent say Wisconsin is adding jobs at about the same rate and 14 percent say the state is adding jobs faster than others. In July, 48 percent said Wisconsin was lagging behind, 35 percent said keeping up and 8 percent said adding jobs faster than other states.

There are sharp partisan divisions in perception of job growth in the state, with 10 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats thinking Wisconsin lags behind other states, while 78 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 29 percent of Democrats see the state keeping pace or adding jobs faster than other states. Both Republicans and independents became more positive in their view of the jobs picture compared to July, when 24 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of independents saw the state lagging while 67 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of independents saw the state keeping pace or exceeding job creation in other states. In July, 68 percent of Democrats saw the state lagging and 23 percent thought it keeping pace or better.

Looking at the overall economy, 32 percent expect improvement over the next 12 months while 29 percent expect the economy to worsen with 36 percent expecting no change. That represents more pessimism about the economy than found in the July Marquette Law School Poll, when a similar 31 percent expected improvement but only 20 percent expected worsening conditions. In July, 45 percent expected no change in the economy.

Legislative actions in 2013

Legislation passed over the summer and fall elicits a range of views from the public. Tax cuts receive the most favorable responses, with 56 percent favoring and 36 percent opposing the recent $100 million property tax cut and 52 percent favoring and 35 percent opposing the earlier $650 million income tax cut.

Statewide expansion of vouchers for private school tuition is favored by 50 percent and opposed by 44 percent. Borrowing $994 million for road construction is supported by 49 percent and opposed by 44 percent. More opposition than support is found for ending residency requirements for municipal employees, with 45 percent favoring and 49 percent opposed. Thirty-eight percent favor and 56 percent oppose requiring women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound. Thirty-six percent favor rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid for those slightly over the poverty line while 56 percent oppose that state policy.

While the two specific tax cuts are popular, 65 percent think tax cuts generally do more for the wealthy, compared to 18 percent thinking tax cuts benefit the middle class and 9 percent who say they benefit the poor.

Support for same-sex marriage has increased over the past 12 months in Wisconsin, with 53 percent now supporting same-sex marriage, 24 percent favoring civil unions and 19 percent saying there should be no legal recognition for same-sex unions. This question was asked of 400 respondents and has a margin of error of +/-5.0 percentage points. In October 2012, 44 percent said they favored same-sex marriage, with 28 percent favoring civil unions and 23 percent opposed to any legal recognition.

Legalization of marijuana use is supported by 50 percent and opposed by 45 percent.

A proposed new casino to be located in Kenosha is supported by 41 percent of respondents and opposed by 38 percent with 19 percent undecided. Support for the casino is strongest in the Milwaukee media market outside the city of Milwaukee, with 54 percent support and 30 percent opposition. In the city of Milwaukee, 37 percent support the casino while 45 percent oppose it. The Green Bay market splits 43 percent in favor to 41 percent opposed, while the Madison market has 32 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed. Those in the western and northern parts of the state divide 30 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed to the casino.

The 2016 outlook

Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential race, Scott Walker is the first choice for the party’s nomination among Wisconsin Republicans and independents who lean Republican, with 29 percent support, followed by Rep. Paul Ryan with 25 percent.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is the third choice at 9 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 9 percent, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 8 percent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 4 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 2 percent. Thirteen percent say they support someone else or do not know whom they would support. In May, Walker was the choice of 16 percent while Ryan had the support of 27 percent and Rubio 21 percent.

Among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, 52 percent say they personally would like to see Walker run for president while 43 percent say they would not like to see him run. For Ryan, 64 percent say they would like to see him run while 27 percent say they would not like that. While Walker has a lower percentage wanting him to run, fully 50 percent of those wanting Walker to run rank him as their first choice for the nomination, while for Ryan only 35 percent of those wanting Ryan to run rank him as their first choice for the nomination.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to dominate the nomination race, with support of 64 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden at 11 percent each, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 2 percent and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 1 percent. In May, Clinton had the support of 62 percent, Warren 5 percent and Biden 13 percent.

In a 2016 presidential election trial heat, Clinton leads all Republicans tested. Clinton leads Walker 53 percent to 41 percent and leads Ryan 51 to 43 percent. She leads Christie 50-40 and Cruz by 55-33 percent.

Federal government shutdown

The October shutdown of the federal government is widely disapproved of by Wisconsin voters. Nineteen percent support shutting down the government in an effort to stop the health care reform law from going into effect, while 76 percent oppose the shutdown.

This opposition is despite a balance of opinion opposed to the health care reform legislation, with 42 percent saying they favor the law and 48 percent holding an unfavorable view of it. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans favor the shutdown while 57 percent oppose it, 19 percent of independents favor and 78 percent oppose, and among Democrats 4 percent support and 91 percent oppose the shutdown.

The shutdown receives 54 percent support and 43 percent opposition among those calling themselves “very conservative,” compared to 30 percent support and 64 percent opposition among those identifying as “conservative.” Moderates split 11 percent in favor and 85 percent opposed. Those considering themselves “liberal” oppose the shutdown by a 93-5 percent margin while “very liberal” voters oppose it 94-6 percent.

Voters who say they have a favorable view of the tea party split with 41 percent in favor of the shutdown and 53 percent opposed.

Voters are unhappy with the performance of both parties in Congress, though more so with Republicans. Thirty-four percent approve of the way Democrats in Congress are doing their job while 61 percent disapprove. For Republicans, 17 percent approve and 76 percent disapprove.

For President Barack Obama, 49 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove, a slight improvement from July when Obama’s approval stood at 47 percent with 46 percent disapproving.

Wisconsin U.S. Senators’ ratings shifted in opposite directions since last measured in May. In October, Sen. Ron Johnson is rated favorably by 28 percent and unfavorably by 33 percent, while 38 percent are unable to give a rating. In May, his ratings were 33 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable and 41 percent unable to rate. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s October favorability is 47 percent with 36 percent unfavorable and 17 percent unable to rate. In May, she was seen favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 38 percent, while 22 percent were unable to give a rating. Both Johnson and Baldwin’s favorability questions in October were asked of half the sample and have a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s ratings have changed little since May. In October, 42 percent have a favorable view of him, with 37 percent unfavorable and 23 percent unable to rate. In May, 44 percent were favorable, with 38 percent unfavorable and 17 percent unable to rate him.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. In 2012, the poll provided highly accurate estimates of election outcomes, in addition to gauging public opinion on a variety of major policy questions.

This poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone Oct. 21-24, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. For questions asked of half the sample the margin of error is +/- 5.0 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at