“If there’s a subtitle to today’s presentation, it is partisan differences.”
That comment from Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, as a new round of poll results was released Wednesday at Eckstein Hall, spotlighted a striking and important aspect to public opinion in Wisconsin (and probably across the United States). In short, there are two different worlds of perception on what is going on when it comes to politics and policy.
Start with the most obvious example, opinions of President Donald Trump. Overall, 42 percent of registered voters polled in Wisconsin approved of Trump’s job performance and 50 percent disapproved. In polling a month ago, it was 44 percent and 50 percent. Since Trump took office, those numbers have not varied much.
But break it down by partisanship and there’s a canyon of difference. Among Republicans, 86 percent approve of how Trump is doing as president and 8 percent disapprove. Among Democrats, 3 percent approve and 93 percent disapprove.
That gap in opinion along party lines could be seen (although not always to quite that degree) in answers to questions about the job performance of Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Tammy Baldwin and on issues including tariffs, Supreme Court nominations, and immigration policy. It showed up also in answers to questions about abortion, although (perhaps significantly) not to the same degree as on some other subjects. Franklin said Democrats generally are more “pro-choice” and Republicans “pro-life,” but nearly half of Republicans said they thought abortion should be legal in most cases or in all cases.
Nonetheless, the degree to which Wisconsin’s political life involves two camps with sharply different views of leaders and issues was striking in the results released at the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program on Wednesday.
One other divide was illustrated in a question which was asked for the first time in the new round of polling. Franklin said the Law School Poll has asked for opinions on transportation issues often. But the new question asked simply how people described the quality of roads and highways where they live.
Generally, people in northern and western Wisconsin showed more unhappiness than people in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. Some specifics:
Statewide, 59 percent of voters rated the roads where they live as fair or poor and 40 percent rated them as excellent or good. In northern and western Wisconsin, the overall rating was 34 percent saying roads were good or excellent and 66 percent saying they were poor or fair. In southern Wisconsin, the overall results were 48 percent saying good or excellent and 52 percent saying fair or poor.
Perceptions of the state of roads may be an important issue in the November election for governor. One indication of that was that, unlike on some other questions in the poll, almost everybody had an opinion on roads.
The most striking examples of cases where a lot of people had no opinion involved the two major primaries that are four weeks away, involving the Democratic nomination for governor and the Republican nomination for a US Senate seat. A large portion of registered voters (30 percent who say they will vote in the Republican primary and 38 percent who say they will vote in the Democratic primary) have not made up their minds yet. And the percentage of voters who say they don’t have enough information to have an opinion of a candidate was greater than 50 percent for each candidate for the two offices.
That said, the poll results indicated that, in the Republican Senate race, Leah Vukmir has taken a small lead over Kevin Nicholson and, in the Democratic race for governor, Tony Evers is a clear leader. Evers was supported by 31 percent of those who said they are going to vote in that race, while none of seven other candidates drew support from more than 6 percent of those polled.
But Franklin said a lot could change in both races before the Aug. 14 primary, especially as the campaigns heat up and increase their visibility with television advertising.
This was the last Marquette Law School Poll before that primary. Franklin said the next poll will be in August, after the candidates who will be on the November ballot have been determined.