Analysis

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.

New Poll Results: Even “Smidgens” of Change Provide Insight

The word for the day was “smidgeny” when a new round of Marquette Law School Poll results were released on Wednesday.

“I think smidgen is a word I’m going to wear out today because these differences are truly smidgeny,” Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at the Law School, said as he walked the audience at Eckstein Hall and online through the results of polling done from July 7 to 10.

A lot of the numbers on the presidential race, the US Senate race in Wisconsin, and other matters did not change much in recent weeks, even as major events focused on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump occurred.

Overall, Clinton continued to lead Trump in Wisconsin among both all registered voters and those who are likely to vote. Democrat Russ Feingold continued to lead Republican Ron Johnson in the Senate race. Margins were in single digits, but Franklin said there was enough movement in answers to some questions to indicate both races are tightening.

And even if the numbers didn’t change much, the light that the poll results shine on what is happening remains strong. Franklin pointed to several important themes people should keep in mind as the campaign season unfolds in Wisconsin and nationwide. Among them:

Turn-out. The proportion of Republicans who said they were going to vote in November fell from 87 percent in the Law School Poll conducted in March to 78 percent in the June poll, which suggested problems for that party’s candidates. In July, 80 percent said they were going to vote, which brightened the Republican picture a bit. And the percentage of Democrats who said they were going to vote was 78 percent in July, compared to 84 percent in June, which suggested concerns for that party. Franklin said keeping an eye on trends related to who will actually come out to vote in November was going to be important.

Party unity. The new results indicated growing feeling among Democrats that the party was uniting as the contentious primary season fades and the election gets closer. In June, only 18 percent said the party was united, but in July that rose to 39 percent. Among Republicans, 12 percent said the party was united in June and that declined to 5 percent in July, with 46 percent saying the party is divided and will still be divided in November. Party unity will be a big issue for both Democrats and Republicans, Franklin said, which adds importance to the national conventions of each party to be held over the next two weeks. Will there be a convention bounce for either candidate?

The continuing strength of negative opinions of both Trump and Clinton. Large majorities of voters don’t like Clinton and Trump. In line with prior Law School polls and polls by others around the nation, both candidates have very high negative ratings on many questions. Overall in the new results, 29 percent had favorable views of Trump and 63 percent had unfavorable views. For Clinton, it was 36 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable. And the percentage of voters who say they would be “very uncomfortable” with the candidates as president was 43 percent for Clinton and 55 percent for Trump.

Third party candidates. For the first time, the Law School asked about support for Gary Johnson Libertarian candidate for president, and Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, as well as Phil Anderson, Libertarian candidate in Wisconsin’s Senate race. In a four-candidate question asked of registered voters on the presidential race, support came in at 40 percent for Clinton, 33 percent for Trump, 10 percent for Johnson, and 4 percent for Stein.  That leaves more than 10 percent not picking any of them, but it is enough to suggest more voters than usual may turn away from the main party candidates.

Gov. Scott Walker’s continuing poor poll numbers. Opinions of Walker’s job performance were consistently around 50 percent favorable in Law School Polls for several years. But after his presidential campaign failed in mid-2015, his numbers went down. In the new results, 38 percent said they approved of Walkers job performance and 58 percent disapproved. That is consistent with polling over the last year. Franklin said points to a long-term decline in Walker’s popularlty and not a short term blip.

There were plenty of other results in the poll that showed that even “smidgens” can add up to insight. The full results may be found by clicking here. And the one-hour conversation about the results between Franklin and Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, may be viewed by clicking here.  

Voter Unhappiness Comes Through in New Law School Poll Results

“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Maybe the famous line that the comedy team of Laurel & Hardy used in several movies in the 1920s and ‘30s will emerge as a key theme for voter opinion of the 2016 presidential election.

A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Wednesday, offers an eye-catching set of facts about voter unhappiness with both of the presumptive choices for major party nominations for president. In fact, the results suggested that slipping enthusiasm about voting, particularly among Republicans, may become a major factor in the outcome in November.

How unhappy are voters? Here are a few pieces of the bigger picture that emerged from interviews between June 9 and 12 with 800 registered voters across Wisconsin (666 who were labeled likely voters, based on saying they were certain to vote):

Negative views: Both Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are viewed negatively by majorities of voters. Sixty-four percent of registered voters have negative views of Trump and 58% have negative views of Clinton. Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Law School Poll, said he found nothing comparable to such high negatives in presidential elections going back at least to the 1970s.

Even among Republicans, Trump is viewed unfavorably by 35%, with 52% having favorable opinions of him. Clinton does a bit better within her own party – 67% of Democrats have a favorable view of her and 27% an unfavorable view.

Reduced enthusiasm: In the new poll, 78 percent of Republicans say they are certain to vote in November. That is down a striking nine percentage points from the prior Marquette Law School Poll in March, when the Republican race remained contested and Wisconsin Republicans were on their way to giving Ted Cruz a primary victory.

Among Democrats, there was an increase in interest in voting in November, with 84 percent saying they were certain to vote, compared to 81 percent who said that in March.

By comparison, Franklin said, in the Law School Poll in June 2012, 90 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats said they were certain to vote that November.

Franklin said the shifting enthusiasm among Republicans explains why Clinton did better among likely voters than among all registered voters. To be specific, among registered voters, Clinton was supported by 42 percent and Trump by 35 percent.  But among likely voters, it was Clinton 46 percent and Trump 37 percent.

Low opinions of character: Less than a third of those polled rated Trump and Clinton as honest. For Clinton, only 28 percent said she was honest. For Trump, only 32 percent said that. Less than half said either candidate “cares about people like me” – for Trump, the figure was 27 percent, for Clinton it was 42 percent. More than half (56 percent) said Clinton has the qualifications to be president, but only 30 percent said that was true for Trump.

Substantial evidence of disunity within each party: Franklin said both Republicans and Democrats face unusual numbers of people identified with their parties who say they will not vote for either Trump or Clinton – 18 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats say that. Another five percent of Republicans and four percent of Democrats say they don’t know what they are going to do. For comparison, in June 2012, only three percent of Republicans and two percent of Democrats said they would not support either major party nominee.

Among Republicans, 12 percent said the party is currently united, 41 percent said it is divided now but will unite before the election, and 45 percent said the party will still be divided in November. Among Democrats, 18 percent say the party is united now, 53 percent say it is divided now but will unite by November, and 26 percent say the party will remain divided.

The popularity of Bernie Sanders: Sanders won the Wisconsin Democratic primary in April but fell short nationwide in amassing enough delegates to win the nomination. He remains the candidate who polls the best in Wisconsin. The new poll found that 53 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of him, with 36 percent unfavorable, much better than Trump or Clinton. Among Democrats, he had ratings of 81 percent favorable and 10 percent unfavorable. Furthermore, in a hypothetical match-up, Sanders led Trump by 56 percent to 31 percent among registered voters and 57 percent to 33 percent among likely voters, both much better than Clinton.

There is still a long distance to go until the November election. But what does it say when someone who isn’t going to get a major party nomination does far better in polling than either of the people who are? Or when each of the major candidates is well below water when it comes to favorable views in general? Or when enthusiasm among voters, particularly Republicans, appears to be tepid at best?

Well, as Laurel & Hardy said . . . .