Barrett leads in Democratic primary if he enters race for governor
Milwaukee, Wis. – With just one week until the April 3 Wisconsin presidential primary, the Marquette Law School Poll shows Governor Mitt Romney with a 39 percent to 31 percent lead over Senator Rick Santorum, reversing Santorum’s lead in February polls. Looking ahead to the November election, Romney trails President Barack Obama by 43 percent to 48 percent. In February Obama led by double digits. The new poll shows the rest of the Republican field also trailing Obama: 51 percent to Santorum’s 39 percent, 50 percent to Ron Paul’s 40 percent, and 53 percent to Newt Gingrich’s 36 percent.
In the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall, the poll shows a very close race. Governor Scott Walker holds a 47 percent to 45 percent margin over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and a 49 percent to 45 percent edge over former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. These matchups have tightened since January, when Walker led Barrett by 6 percentage points and Falk by 7 percentage points. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout trails Walker 41 percent to 49 percent and Secretary of State Doug La Follette trails 42 percent to 49 percent.
In a potential Democratic primary, Barrett has the support of 36 percent to Falk’s 29 percent, with Vinehout and La Follette each at 8 percent. A substantial 17 percent say they remain undecided. If Barrett is not a candidate, Falk holds a wide lead among Democratic primary voters, with 54 percent to 15 percent for La Follette and 12 percent for Vinehout, with 18 percent undecided.
Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin said the sharp swings in this year’s primaries are reflected in the poll results. “In February Santorum was at the high point of his campaign following wins in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. Since that time Romney has come from behind to win in Michigan and Ohio, while Santorum has done well in southern states. Wisconsin represents Santorum’s most important chance to win another Midwest victory, while for Romney continued success here would set up a showdown in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania.”
Republican presidential candidate qualities
Asked what quality is most important in a presidential nominee, Republican primary voters picked having a strong moral character at 32 percent, with having the right experience to be president next at 30 percent. The ability to defeat Obama was ranked third at 19 percent, with being a true conservative last with just 14 percent. Among those naming strong moral character as most important, Santorum took 42 percent of the vote to Romney’s 29 percent. Romney was the choice of 48 percent of those citing experience as most important, to Santorum’s 20 percent. Those whose top priority is defeating Obama chose Romney by 54 percent to 22 percent over Santorum. Among those whose priority was nominating a true conservative, Santorum was the choice of 43 percent to 26 percent to Romney.
Republican primary voters saw a virtual tie on the question of which candidate best understands the problems of average Americans: Santorum was picked by 25 percent and Romney by 24 percent, with Ron Paul at 20 percent and Newt Gingrich at 10 percent.
The potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates have gained some visibility since January, when 56 percent said that they didn’t know enough about Falk to say if they had a favorable or unfavorable view of her. In February, that edged down to 50 percent. But after a substantial recent advertising campaign, in March only 34 percent were unable to rate her. For Barrett, who has yet to announce whether he will enter the race, the trend was from 39 percent unable to rate him in January to 43 percent in February and 38 percent in March. Seventy-seven percent were unable to rate Vinehout in March, unchanged from 76 percent in February. La Follette was not rated by 69 percent in March, his first survey since entering the race.
Among Democratic primary voters, Barrett’s favorable to unfavorable ratings were 47 percent to 19 percent, while Falk’s were 39 percent to 29 percent. Vinehout’s ratings were 12 percent favorable to 10 percent unfavorable, while La Follette’s were 20 percent to 13 percent.
Walker’s favorable to unfavorable rating in March was 50 percent to 45 percent, up from 46 percent to 48 percent in February and matching his January standing. Walker’s job approval rating also improved in March, to 50 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove, from 47 percent to 47 percent tie in February.
In the week that saw gasoline prices reach all-time record highs in the Milwaukee area, voters were evenly divided on the ability of a president to affect gas prices: 46 percent say that a president can do a lot to affect gas prices while 46 percent say this is beyond the control of any president. There is a strong partisan cast to the perception of presidential control over gas prices, with 63 percent of Republicans thinking the president can do a lot about gas prices, while 62 percent of Democrats believe this is beyond any president’s control. Among independents the split is 50 percent saying a president can do a lot, while 44 percent say it is beyond his control. Among those independents thinking the president has some control, 66 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job as president. Among those independents who say no president can control gas prices, an identical proportion (66 percent) approve of how Obama is handling his job.
About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Running monthly through the 2012 election, it will provide a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the possible gubernatorial recall election and the campaigns for president and U.S. Senate, in addition to gauging opinion on major policy questions.
The results of today’s poll were discussed at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar events will be held at the release of each poll throughout the year.
The poll interviewed 707 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone March 22-25, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. For the 349 respondents who said they would vote in the GOP presidential primary, the margin of error is +/- 5.4 percentage points. For the 370 respondents who said they would vote in the Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election, the margin of error is +/- 5.2 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.