Analysis

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.

New Poll Shows Wider Clinton Lead, But It’s Not Over, Franklin Says

A member of the audience had a question Wednesday after Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, completed presenting the results of a new round of poll results.

“Isn’t it a fair statement that, between us guys, the presidential race is about over?” he asked.

Franklin responded, “I’m not there.” He added, “When we look at all of the presidential races since the ‘90s, where we have pretty good data, we actually see most of those showing some real rises and falls over time. . . .  I think it’s a bit of hubris to think that whatever we believe today is unchangeable, that no event can matter.”

That important point made, the new results, based on polling from August 4 to 7, showed movement since the last Law School Poll a month ago that left Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a wider lead than before over Republican candidate Donald Trump. In broad terms, Clinton’s numbers improved in the period that included the Democratic national convention and Trump’s numbers changed little or slipped in the period that included the Republican convention.

The results also pointed toward continuing divisions among Republicans and growing unity among Democrats, with small indications that the percentage of Democrats intending to vote is rising while the percentage of Republicans intending to vote is declining.

The closely-followed results of the Marquette Law School Poll had Clinton supported by 46 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin and Trump supported by 36 percent, with 16 percent saying they will vote for neither, not vote, or haven’t made up their minds. A month earlier, Clinton led Trump among registered voters by six percentage points, 43 to 37.

Among voters considered likely to vote, Clinton drew support from 52 percent and Trump from 37 percent, a 15-point difference that brought an audible reaction from the audience in the Law School’s Appellate Courtroom when it was first announced. A month ago, Clinton led Trump among likely voters by four points, 45 percent to 41 percent.

There was small favorable movement for Clinton on some of the questions asked in the poll. Overall, 43 percent of those polled viewed Clinton favorably, up from 36 percent in the July poll. Her unfavorable ratings went from 58 percent in July to 53 percent in August.

For Trump, 29 percent viewed him favorably in July and 27 percent in August. Unfavorable percentages for Trump were 63 percent in July and 65 percent in August.

Both candidates remain broadly unpopular and have low ratings when it comes questions such as whether people think they are honest. The question of how comfortable people would be with either as president continues to draw strong negative responses: 55 percent of registered voters were uncomfortable with the thought of Clinton as president, including 41 percent who say they are “very uncomfortable.” For Trump, 68 percent of voters are uncomfortable with him being president, including 53 percent who say they are “very uncomfortable.”

One striking difference was on the question of whether each candidate has the qualifications to be president. The poll found 58 percent saying Clinton has the qualifications while 29 percent say Trump has the qualifications.

Summarizing other poll results released Wednesday:

In the US Senate race in Wisconsin, Democratic candidate Russ Feingold was supported by 49 percent of registered voters and Republican incumbent Ron Johnson by 43 percent. In July, the tally was Feingold 48 percent and Johnson 41 percent. Among likely voters, Feingold was supported by 53 percent of voters and Johnson by 42 percent. In July, the figures among likely voters were Feingold 49 percent and Johnson 44 percent.

Comparing the two Republican candidates, Franklin said Johnson is doing better than Trump by about four percentage points in some measures in Wisconsin.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who represents a district in southeast Wisconsin and who won nomination for another term in the House of Representatives by a large margin in Tuesday’s primary, is viewed favorably by 54 percent of all those polled in Wisconsin and by 80 percent of Republicans statewide. Franklin said that, even with all that has gone on involving Ryan in recent weeks, including the controversy over whether Trump would endorse him in the primary, Ryan’s standing in Wisconsin has improved.

The job approval ratings of Republican Gov. Scott Walker continue to be well below what they were in Walker’s first four years in office. In the new results, 38 percent of registered voters approved of how Walker was doing as governor and 59 percent disapproved. In July, the figures were 38 percent approval and 58 percent disapproval. Walker’s approval total has been below 40 percent in most Law School Polls since his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2015.

But for all the results, remember what Franklin said: Nothing’s over yet. There’s just a bit under three months to go to the November election and, as has been demonstrated this year, unexpected things are likely to happen.