New Marquette Law School Poll finds Walker, Burke tied in Wisconsin governor’s race

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds that the Wisconsin governor’s race remains a dead heat, with Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 46 percent of registered voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 45 percent support. Eight percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they would support. Fewer than 1 percent say they will vote for someone else.

These results closely resemble the most recent Marquette Law School Poll, in May, which showed both candidates receiving the support of 46 percent of registered voters.

Among likely voters, i.e., those who say they are certain to vote in November’s election, Burke receives 47 percent and Walker 46 percent.

The results for both registered and likely voters are within the poll’s margin of error. The July poll interviewed 804 registered voters by landline and cell phone July 17-20. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. For the sample of 549 likely voters, the margin of error is +/- 4.3 percentage points.

In May, Walker received 48 percent to Burke’s 45 percent among likely voters, which was also within the margin of error of that poll.

Partisans remain solidly behind their candidates, with 93 percent of Republicans supporting Walker and 3 percent backing Burke. Among Democrats, Burke receives 88 percent while Walker receives 9 percent. Independents are evenly divided, with 44 percent supporting Burke and 45 percent supporting Walker. Independents in May split 49 percent for Walker and 40 percent for Burke, while Republicans backed Walker 94-3 and Democrats went for Burke 87-8.

Demographic divisions

Women support Burke over Walker by a 48-41 percent margin, while men favor Walker 51 to 41 percent. That is virtually unchanged from May, when women favored Burke 49-41 and men supported Walker 52-42.

The youngest voters, age 18-29, favor Burke over Walker by 48 to 35 percent. Those age 30-44 split evenly, 46 to 46 percent, while Walker’s strongest support comes among those 45-59 where he leads 51 to 42 percent. Voters over 60 split evenly, 45 percent for Burke and 46 percent for Walker.

Married voters favor Walker by a 54 to 38 percent margin, while those never married favor Burke by 53 to 34 percent. Those who are widowed, divorced, or separated favor Burke 53 to 38.

The gender gap appears within groups by marital status as well. Married men favor Walker 60-34, while married women prefer Walker 49-42. Among never-married men, Burke holds a 48-40 advantage, while never-married women prefer Burke 60-23. Among those widowed, divorced, or separated, men prefer Burke 50-44 and women prefer Burke 55-34.

State’s direction and issues

Approval of Walker’s handing of his job as governor stands at 47 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval. In May, approval was 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. In March, 47 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Fifty-four percent of voters say that Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, compared to 41 percent who say that it is off on the wrong track. This is virtually unchanged from May’s 52 to 42 percentage point split and March’s 54-42 split.

Forty-five percent say the state’s budget is in better shape now than a few years ago, while 28 percent say it is in about the same shape and 22 percent say the budget is in worse shape. In January, 49 percent said the budget was in better shape, 26 percent said about the same, and 20 percent said it was in worse shape. In May, 48 percent said better, 22 percent said the same, and 25 percent said worse.

Nine percent of voters say Wisconsin is creating jobs faster than other states, 42 percent say the state is creating jobs at about the same rate as other states, and 43 percent say Wisconsin is lagging behind other states. In May, 13 percent said the state was creating jobs faster, 38 percent said about the same, and 43 percent said lagging behind.

Support for increasing the minimum wage claimed 56 percent, as against 39 percent opposition. When last asked in March, 63 percent supported increasing the minimum wage, while 33 percent opposed an increase.

Opinion on same-sex marriage is little changed in the wake of a June federal trial court ruling striking down a Wisconsin constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Fifty-six percent of voters say they would vote to repeal the ban if they could, while 37 percent would keep it. When asked in March, before the court ruling, 59 percent said they would repeal the amendment while 36 percent would keep it in place.

Personal perceptions

Burke still remains unfamiliar to nearly half of Wisconsin voters, as 49 percent say they either haven’t heard enough about her or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her. In May, the number was 51 percent. At the launch of her candidacy in October 2013, 70 percent were unable to rate her.

Burke receives ratings of 26 percent favorable and 24 percent unfavorable in July, nearly the same as May’s 27 percent favorable and 22 percent unfavorable result.

Only 8 percent of voters did not give a rating for Walker. He is seen favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 47 percent. In May, 47 percent had a favorable view and 48 percent unfavorable.

Voters were asked if the phrase “cares about people like you” describes Walker and Burke. Forty-five percent say that “cares about people like you” describes Walker, while 49 percent say that that does not describe him and 5 percent say that they do not know. For Burke, 38 percent say that the phrase describes her while 31 percent say that it does not. Thirty percent are not able to say if this describes her. Those results are little different from May, when 44 percent said “cares about you” described Walker and 52 percent said it did not, and, for Burke, 39 percent said it described her while 29 percent said it did not.

When asked if “able to get things done” describes Walker, 66 percent say it does, while 29 percent say it does not, with 4 percent unable to say. For Burke, 36 percent say “able to get things done” describes her, while 28 percent say it does not and 35 percent were unable to say. The May results were also quite similar, with Walker seen as able to get things done by 68 percent, with 28 percent saying “no” for him, while Burke got responses of 36 percent “yes” to 26 percent “no.” In May, 4 percent did not know if this described Walker and 38 percent did not know if it described Burke.

John Doe investigation

In the wake of the release of court documents concerning an investigation by prosecutors into possible campaign finance law violations, known as a “John Doe” proceeding, 75 percent of voters say they have heard or read about the investigation while 24 percent say they have not. Of those who have heard, 54 percent say it is “just more politics” while 42 percent say it is “really something serious.” In October 2012, 76 percent had heard of a “John Doe” investigation at that time, with 46 percent saying it was “just more politics” and 45 percent saying it was “really something serious.”

Voter involvement

In the July poll, 68 percent of registered voters say they are absolutely certain to vote in November. In contrast, before the November 2012 election, 88 percent said they were similarly certain to vote. Midterm elections consistently show lower turnout than presidential years. In 2010, 2.1 million voters went to the polls, compared to 3 million in November 2012.

Seventy-two percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats say they are absolutely certain to vote this fall, while 63 percent of independents say this. When asked how enthusiastic they are about voting in November, 60 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Democrats, and 50 percent of independents say “very enthusiastic.”

The parties and campaigns have already begun to contact voters. One in three voters, 33 percent, say they have been contacted by phone, in person or by mail in the last month. Of those who have been contacted, 14 percent say they were contacted only by Democrats, 25 percent say only by Republicans and 53 percent say they were reached by both parties.

Republicans were most likely to be contacted by only the Republican party, 35 percent, or by both parties, 49 percent, with only 7 percent of Republicans saying only the Democrats contacted them. Democrats, in contrast, were about equally likely to be contacted by both parties, with 27 percent saying only the Democrats contacted them, 29 percent saying only the Republicans, and 42 percent saying both parties had been in contact.

Independents are much more likely to be contacted by both parties, with 64 percent reporting such contact, while 12 percent said only the Democrats had contacted them and 18 percent saying only the Republicans. Of those who have been contacted, regardless of party, 75 percent say they are certain to vote, while 65 percent of those who have not been contacted say they are certain to vote.

Party affiliations

In the July poll, people who identified themselves as Republicans made up 24 percent of the sample, people saying they are Democrats 30 percent and those labeling themselves independents 41 percent. In May, Republicans were 24 percent, Democrats 32 percent and independents 41 percent. In eight statewide Marquette Law School polls since January 2013, Republicans have averaged 26 percent, Democrats 30 percent and independents 40 percent. Partisanship was slightly higher for both parties in 2012, when, over Marquette Law School’s 14 polls, Republicans averaged 28 percent, Democrats 32 percent and independents 37 percent.

Among likely voters in the July poll, Republicans made up 25 percent, Democrats 32 percent and independents 38 percent. In May, likely voters were composed of 26 percent Republicans, 31 percent Democrats and 39 percent independents.

About the Marquette Law School Poll

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

This poll interviewed 804 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, July 17-20, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 549 likely voters. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 4.3 percentage points.