New MU Law Poll looks at Wisc views on guns, education, economy

Transportation funding, residency, the Milwaukee County board and approval of elected officials also included in first poll of 2013

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll, the first of 2013, finds a large majority of Wisconsin registered voters in favor of background checks for buyers at private gun sales and at gun shows, with 81 percent supporting background checks and 18 percent opposed.

The public was more divided on a possible ban on assault-style weapons with 54 percent supporting a ban and 43 percent opposed. Among gun owners, 46 percent support a ban while 52 percent oppose a ban. Among households without a gun, 64 percent support a ban while 32 percent oppose banning assault-style weapons.

The statewide poll of both landline and cell phone users, covering a number of topics, was conducted March 11-14, 2013. Results are based on a sample of 1060 registered voters and have a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent. An oversample from the city of Milwaukee was included to allow more detailed analysis of respondents in the city. All results have been weighted to properly reflect the statewide population.

Demographics of gun issues

In terms of regions within Wisconsin on these two issues: The support for expanding background checks included the more rural areas of the state, with 74 percent in favor and 21 percent opposed in the southwestern and northern areas of the state, outside the Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay media markets. Opposition to an assault-style weapons ban was strongest in the more rural region of the state, with 58 percent opposed to a ban and 41 percent supportive. The Green Bay media market split with 50 percent opposed and 49 percent in favor of a ban, while the Madison and Milwaukee areas gave 63 percent and 60 percent support respectively, with 32 percent and 36 percent opposed.

In terms of breakdown among men and women on these issues: Majorities of both men and women supported expanded background checks, with 77 percent of men and 84 percent of women in favor, while 21 percent and 14 percent respectively were opposed. The contrast was greater on banning assault-style weapons, with 66 percent of women favoring a ban while only 41 percent of men were in favor; the numbers opposed to banning assault-style weapons were 29 percent of women and 58 percent of men.

Both gun owners and non-gun owners supported expanding background checks, with 82 percent of owners and 81 percent of non-owners favoring background checks. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had a firearm in their home while 51 percent said they did not. Six percent didn’t say if they had a firearm or not.

Views about public education split

Opinions about public schools and the state education budget show a wide range of views. Respondents have a very favorable view of public schools, with 72 percent favorable and 18 percent unfavorable, and of public school teachers, 76 percent favorable and 14 percent unfavorable. Parents with children under 18 in the household tend to hold slightly more favorable views of public schools than people without children in the home. Seventy-seven percent of such parents rate public schools favorably versus 19 percent unfavorably, while those without children under 18 give a 69 percent favorable and 18 percent unfavorable rating. Public school teachers get similar favorable ratings among parents (77 percent) and non-parents (75 percent) alike.

Voucher schools divide public opinion; many undecided

Views on voucher schools are more evenly divided with 27 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable, but with the largest group, 49 percent, saying they either haven’t heard enough to have an opinion or don’t know what they think of voucher schools. In the city of Milwaukee, where voucher schools have been in use since 1990, voucher schools are seen favorably by 34 percent of respondents and negatively by 21 percent, with 45 percent saying they don’t know enough to have an opinion. In other regions of the state, favorable-unfavorable splits are 21-35 percent in the Madison media market, 23-23 percent in Green Bay, and 19-25 percent in the southwestern and northern regions of the state. Favorable views of voucher schools are strongest in the Milwaukee media market outside the city, where 36 percent have a favorable view and 19 percent an unfavorable view. In all regions, over 40 percent say they don’t know enough about voucher schools to express an opinion.

Voucher schools are also given similar ratings among parents and non-parents, with 29 percent of parents and 26 percent of non-parents giving a favorable rating, while 24 percent of both parents and non-parents view voucher schools unfavorably. Both groups have large percentages who are unfamiliar with voucher schools, 47 percent among parents and 49 percent among non-parents.

Expansion of voucher schools splits voters

Expansion of voucher schools beyond the Milwaukee and Racine areas gets a divided reception. Thirty-seven percent support expanding the voucher school program to the entire state, while 14 percent support expanding vouchers only to larger school districts with some low-performing schools. Fourteen percent prefer no expansion while 28 percent would like to see the voucher program ended. Seven percent offered no opinion. Support for expansion either statewide or in larger districts was strongest, at 56 percent, in the city of Milwaukee, 54 percent in the rest of the Milwaukee area, 51 percent in the Madison media market, 49 percent in the Green Bay market and 45 percent in the southwestern and northern regions of the state.

Public school satisfaction generally high

A large majority of voters, 81 percent, are either very satisfied or satisfied with the public schools in their community, with 14 percent either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Among parents with children in the household 84 percent say they are satisfied or very satisfied, while 13 percent are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Among those without children at home, 79 percent are satisfied or very satisfied, with 14 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Opinion in the city of Milwaukee is less positive than statewide, with 50 percent satisfied or very satisfied and 39 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. No other region of the state has more than 15 percent expressing some degree of dissatisfaction with public schools in the community.

School funding questions divide voters

There is general support for increases in spending on public schools, though reluctance to see property taxes increase for this purpose. Eight percent would like to see spending on public schools reduced, while 17 percent would keep spending at the current level. Fourteen percent favor an increase of one and a half percent, while 41 percent think public school spending should increase with the rate of inflation. Sixteen percent would like school spending to increase by more than the inflation rate.

When it comes to using property taxes to pay for schools, however, the public is split, with 49 percent saying it is more important to reduce property taxes than to increase public school funding, while 46 percent say they would prefer more spending on schools than lower property taxes. Parents with children at home prefer more school spending to reducing property taxes by a 53 to 45 percent margin, while those without children at home prefer reducing property taxes to increased school spending by a 52 to 42 percent margin.

Older people are more reluctant to increase spending, though majorities at all ages would prefer some spending increases to either no increase or further cuts. Eighty-one percent of those under 45 would like to see some level of increased school funding, while 67 percent of those 45 and older would support spending increases. Nineteen percent of those under 45 would prefer a freeze or a cut in public school spending, while 28 percent of those 45 and older would prefer a freeze or cut. Age differences are somewhat sharper when it comes to property taxes. Forty percent of those under 45 prefer reducing property taxes to increasing school spending, while 57 percent of those 45 and older prefer reductions in property taxes to increased school spending.

Funding transportation

Wisconsin voters are, on balance, willing to pay for highway projects through tolls by a 53 percent to 44 percent margin. In every region of the state except the Madison media market, more than half of respondents said they would be willing to accept tolls. Support was highest, at 59 percent, in the city of Milwaukee. The more rural southwestern and northern parts of the state also showed 58 percent supporting tolls. Support was at 55 percent in the Green Bay area and at 51 percent in the Milwaukee area outside the city. In the Madison area 46 percent said they were willing to use tolls for highway funding, while 48 percent opposed using tolls.

Other ways of funding transportation were more strongly opposed. Just 28 percent were willing to accept higher gas taxes or vehicle registration fees to fund highway projects, and only 24 percent were willing to see the state borrow money to pay for the projects. Taking money from other programs to pay for highways was supported by 57 percent. Fifty-one percent were willing to cut spending on highways even if it delays planned projects.

Views on residency requirements, the Milwaukee County Board also split

Over 100 cities and towns in Wisconsin have residency requirements for at least some municipal employees. Fifty-three percent of respondents favor eliminating a residency requirement, while 42 percent believe employees should be required to live where they work. Residents of the city of Milwaukee favored retaining the residency requirement, 49 percent to 48 percent for eliminating it, while in the other counties of the metropolitan Milwaukee area 68 percent favored eliminating the residency requirement while 28 percent supported it. Support for residency requirements was strongest in the southwestern and northern regions of the state, where 52 percent supported residency rules and 45 percent opposed them.

A proposal to change the Milwaukee County Board from full-time to part-time was opposed by city residents, with 54 percent preferring full-time and 37 percent favoring a part-time board. In the rest of Milwaukee County, opinion was reversed, with 61 percent favoring a part-time board and 30 percent supporting a full-time one.

Views of Political Figures

President Barack Obama’s job approval stands at 48 percent, with 45 percent disapproval. In late October, just before the presidential election, his approval was 51 percent with 44 percent disapproval. Fifty percent approve of the job Governor Scott Walker is doing while 44 percent disapprove. In October his approval was 49 percent with disapproval at 45 percent.

Wisconsin’s U.S. senators are viewed more favorably than unfavorably, but a substantial number of voters say they don’t know the senators well enough to have an opinion. Senator Ron Johnson receives a favorable rating from 30 percent and an unfavorable rating from 25 percent, but 44 percent say they can’t give an opinion of him. Newly-elected Senator Tammy Baldwin is viewed favorably by 39 percent and unfavorably by 36 percent, with 25 percent unable to rate her.

Congressman and former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is viewed favorably by 45 percent, while 37 percent have an unfavorable view of him and 18 percent are unable to give a rating. Congressman Ron Kind is far less well-known statewide, with 74 percent unable to give a rating, while 16 percent give a favorable and 9 percent give an unfavorable opinion of him.

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

“Marquette Law School will continue the poll during 2013,” said Dean Joseph D. Kearney. “Our effort to provide a balanced and detailed understanding of public opinion in 2012 was a resounding success. The Marquette Law School Poll is part of our broader public policy initiative, led by Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy, and we are grateful that our collaboration continues with Charles Franklin, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and director of the Marquette Law School Poll.”

The results of today’s poll were discussed at a session of “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. A video of today’s session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu.

The poll interviewed 1060 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone March 11-14, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points for the full sample. An oversample of 360 respondents from the city of Milwaukee was included to allow more detailed analysis of respondents in the city. All results have been weighted to properly reflect the statewide population. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.

 

###

Marquette Law School Poll finds Obama ahead in Wisconsin, Baldwin with slight edge in close Senate race

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds President Barack Obama leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in Wisconsin. Five percent remain undecided or declined to state a preference, while 1 percent said that they would vote for a third party. Two weeks ago, before the second and third presidential debates, the poll found Obama at 49 percent to Romney’s 48 percent. In the U.S. Senate election, Representative Tammy Baldwin holds 47 percent to former governor Tommy Thompson’s 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided or not offering a preference. In the previous poll, Thompson received 46 percent and Baldwin 45 percent.

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted October 25-28. The November matchups, issues and candidate image questions are based on a sample of 1,243 likely voters and have a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. Other results are based on 1,404 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Turnout and get out the vote efforts
Turnout could play a big role in the election, according to Poll Director Charles Franklin. “Among all likely voters Obama leads by 8 points, but among those who both are likely to vote and also follow politics most closely, the margin is just two points, 48-46 percent. It works to Obama’s advantage if the less interested voters turn out, while it improves Romney’s chances if they stay home. This shows how get out the vote efforts of both parties can affect the results.” The Senate race similarly tightens among likely voters who follow politics most closely, narrowing to 47 percent for Baldwin to 46 percent for Thompson.

Both political parties have been contacting voters. Seventy-seven percent of likely voters said they had been contacted by phone, in person or by mail in the past week. Of those, 69 percent said they had been contacted by both parties, 10 percent only by Democrats and 18 percent only by Republicans.

Early voting
Ten percent of likely voters said they have already voted, with a week left for early voting at the end of interviewing. This is consistent with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s estimate that about 20 percent of votes will be cast early. Early voters gave Obama 56 percent to 36 percent for Romney and 1 percent for third party candidates. Seven percent of early voters declined to say for whom they voted. In the Senate race Baldwin received 52 percent to Thompson’s 36 percent among early voters in the poll, with 1 percent for third party candidates. Ten percent declined to say whom they supported.

Partisan unity remains high; independents account for changes
Partisanship continues to anchor support for both parties. In the presidential race, 93 percent of Republicans support Romney and 97 percent of Democrats support Obama. Independents lean to Obama 46 to 41 percent, reversing a 49 to 45 Romney advantage in mid-October and accounting for most of the change in vote preference during the past two weeks.

In the Senate race, 91 percent of Republicans support Thompson and 90 percent of Democrats support Baldwin. Independents split 45-39 in favor of Baldwin, reversing a 44-41 split in favor of Thompson in the previous poll.

Presidential candidate images
The presidential debates played an important role in the shifting candidate images in October.

Before the first debate, 47 percent saw Romney as a strong leader, while 44 percent did not. After the debate, 55 percent saw him as strong, while 37 percent did not. The second and third debates had no further effect on his image, which remained at 55 percent strong leader and 38 percent not strong in this end-of-October poll.

Obama’s leadership image did not vary much during October. Before the first debate, 54 percent said he was a strong leader and 44 percent said not strong, followed by 52 strong and 45 percent not strong after the first debate. After the second and third debates, this stood at a slightly improved 56 percent strong and 42 percent not strong.

Obama continues to hold an advantage in the poll on caring about average voters. Before the first debate, 60 percent said Obama “cares about people like me,” while 38 percent said he does not. This barely changed, to 59 to 38 percent after the first debate. After the third debate, 61 percent said he cares and 36 percent say he does not.

Romney had a significant pick-up, from 39 percent saying he cares versus 56 percent saying he does not, before the first debate, to 47 percent saying he cares to 49 saying he does not after that debate. Two weeks later, after all three debates, this has subsided to 44 percent saying he cares, while 52 percent say he does not.

Obama continues to hold an edge in favorability ratings, though with some decline during October. Obama’s favorable ratings have been 55, 52 and 53 percent from the end of September to the middle and end of October, while his unfavorable ratings were 43, 45 and 44 percent at the corresponding times. Romney’s favorable ratings improved somewhat during the month, from 39 to 46 to 45 percent favorable, while his unfavorable rating barely moved from 52 to 48 to 50.

Policy issues and the presidential race
Likely voters were asked, “regardless of how you intend to vote, which candidate would do a better job handling” each of several issues. Obama has improved his standing on each issue following the second and third debates compared with his standing after the first debate. Romney is seen as better able to handle the federal budget deficit, but Obama is seen as better able to handle the other five policy areas. The margin is smallest for the deficit and the economy while largest for foreign policy and social issues. The largest shift came on who would better handle foreign policy, the topic of the third debate.

Federal budget deficit: Obama 47, Romney 49 (After first debate: 45-52)
The economy: Obama 49, Romney 47 (49-50)
Taxes: Obama 51, Romney 44 (50-47)
Health care: Obama 52, Romney 44 (51-46)
Foreign policy: Obama 54, Romney 40 (50-47)
Social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage: Obama 56, Romney 38 (54-40)

Senate candidate images
The negative tone of the Senate race has taken a toll on both candidates, who are viewed more unfavorably than favorably. Baldwin is viewed favorably by 38 percent, while 45 percent have an unfavorable view of her. Thompson is viewed favorably by 38 percent and unfavorably by 51 percent. In late September, Baldwin had a 40 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable rating, while Thompson’s rating was 38 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable.

Asked about themes used in negative ads about each candidate, 50 percent agreed that “Tammy Baldwin is one of the most liberal members of Congress and is too liberal for Wisconsin,” while 41 percent disagreed. For Thompson, 50 percent agreed that “Tommy Thompson sold out to special interests and isn’t working for you anymore,” while 41 percent disagreed. Four weeks earlier, 45 percent agreed Baldwin “is too liberal” and 45 percent disagreed, while 49 percent agreed Thompson “isn’t working for you” and 42 percent disagreed.

On the question of whether the candidate “cares about people like you,” 46 percent said this describes Baldwin, while 40 percent said it does not describe her. For Thompson, 40 percent said “cares about people like you” described him, while 51 percent said it does not. A month earlier, Baldwin’s rating was 47-39 and Thompson’s was 41-50.

Senate debate
Of the 456 respondents in the sample who were interviewed after the third U.S. Senate debate between Baldwin and Thompson, which took place on Friday, October 26, 20 percent said they had watched or listened to the debate. Debate watchers divided evenly on who they thought did the better job in the debate, 45-45 percent.

Economic outlooks and the vote
Likely voters’ views of the economy have improved during the year, to Obama’s advantage. In January, 22 percent thought the economy was better than a year earlier, while 32 percent thought it was worse and 45 percent saw no change. In late October, 34 percent said the economy had improved while 35 percent said it had worsened and 30 percent saw no change. In the latest poll, Obama wins 91 percent of those who think the economy has improved and 49 percent of those who think it has stayed the same, but just 11 percent of those who think it has worsened. Romney gets 6 percent of those seeing an improved economy and 81 percent of those seeing a weaker economy. He gets only 41 percent of those who see no gains during the past year.

Voters have also become more optimistic about the economy during the next year. In January, 36 percent thought the economy would improve during the coming year, while 15 said it would worsen and 48 percent expected no change. In October, 53 percent expect an improvement over the coming year and 9 percent expect a worse economic picture. Thirty-seven percent expect no change or say they don’t know what to expect. Obama wins 73 percent of those expecting improvement, while Romney takes 78 percent from those expecting worse conditions. Those expecting no change favor Romney by 51-36.

Despite this improved outlook on the economy, only 45 percent say they are better off than four years ago, while 50 percent say they are not. Though Obama wins 82 percent of those who say they are better off to Romney’s 11 percent, he wins 21 percent of those who say they are not better off to Romney’s 72 percent.

Participation in the campaign
Wisconsin voters continue to take part in campaigns at relatively high levels. Among registered voters, 49 percent say they have talked to someone and tried to persuade him or her to vote for a candidate. Twenty-four percent have displayed a yard sign or bumper sticker. Nearly half, 47 percent, talk to family and friends about politics more than once a week, and a quarter, 26 percent, talk to coworkers that often about politics. Those levels of participation are barely changed from the levels of the June recall election.

Just as they did in June, politics continue to divide people on a personal level as well. Thirty-three percent say there is someone they’ve stopped talking to about politics. It was 34 percent at the time of the recall.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating is 49 percent to 45 percent disapproval among registered voters, compared to 51-45 in the mid-October poll and 50 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval in late September. Among likely voters, 50 percent approve and 45 percent disapprove.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide survey of public opinion in Wisconsin history. Monthly throughout 2012 it has provided a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the 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 a session of “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events have been held at Marquette Law School throughout the year. A video of today’s session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu/poll.

The poll interviewed 1,404 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone October 25-28, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 2.7 percentage points for the full sample. There are 1,243 “likely voters,” i.e., those who said they were certain to vote in the November elections, with a margin of error for this group being +/- 2.8 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.

Marquette Law School Poll finds presidential and Senate races tied in Wisconsin

Romney and Thompson gaining ground, both races within one point

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds the presidential race tied in Wisconsin, with President Barack Obama at 49 percent and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 48 percent among likely voters. The race for U.S. Senate is also a dead heat, with former Governor Tommy Thompson at 46 percent and Rep. Tammy Baldwin at 45 percent. Two weeks ago, before the first presidential debate, Obama held an 11-point lead and Baldwin was narrowly ahead by four percentage points. The new poll was conducted October 11-14, before the second presidential debate.

The impact of the first presidential debate remains clear more than a week after the event. Among those likely voters who watched the first debate, Romney has a 50-48 percent edge; yet among those who did not watch the debate, Obama leads 50-42 percent. Seventy-three percent of likely voters said that they watched the debate, while 27 percent said they did not watch.

“Rarely has a debate produced such a large movement in the polls. In September, President Obama held a steady lead, but now the race is a pure tossup, in large measure because of the first debate,” said Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin. “The remaining three weeks of the campaign, including reaction to the final debates, will tip the balance to one candidate or the other.”

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted October 11-14. The November matchups, debate effects and candidate image questions are based on a sample of 870 likely voters and have a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points. Other results are based on 1007 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Vice-presidential debate
The vice-presidential debate also appears to have affected the public images of Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan. Of those polled before the vice-presidential debate, Biden had a 49 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable rating, while those interviewed after the debate gave him a 44 percent favorable to 47 percent unfavorable evaluation. Ryan’s ratings among those polled before the debate stood at 46 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable. For those surveyed after the debate, his ratings were 50 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable. Of those who watched the debate, 42 percent thought Biden did the better job, while 51 percent thought Ryan did better.

Voters mostly thought that their own party’s candidate prevailed in the debate. Among debate watchers, 88 percent of Republicans thought Ryan did the better job, while 93 percent of Democrats saw Biden doing better. Independents thought Ryan did better, by a 53 percent to 39 percent margin over Biden.

Partisan unity remains high
Partisanship continues to anchor support for both parties. In the presidential race, 97 percent of Republicans support Romney and 96 percent of Democrats support Obama. Independents lean to Romney 49 to 45 percent. In the Senate race 94 percent of Republicans support Thompson and 92 percent of Democrats support Baldwin. Independents split 44-41 in favor of Thompson.

Presidential candidate images
In the wake of the first debate, Romney’s image as a strong leader has improved to 55 percent while 37 percent say he is not a strong leader. Previously 47 percent saw him as a strong leader while 44 percent did not. Obama’s image for strong leadership barely changed to 52-45 from 54-44. Obama continues to hold an advantage on caring about average voters. Fifty-nine percent say Obama “cares about people like me,” while 38 percent say he does not, unchanged from 60 percent to 38 percent. For Romney 47 percent say he cares about “people like me,” while 49 percent say he does not. That is a considerable improvement for Romney from the 39-56 rating on the same question two weeks earlier.

Obama continues to hold an edge in favorability ratings, with 52 percent saying they have a favorable view of Obama, while 45 percent say they have an unfavorable view. That is somewhat narrower than the 55-43 rating he had two weeks earlier. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 46 favorable to 48 unfavorable, an improvement from a 39-52 split at the end of September. Romney has struggled to overcome a net-unfavorable rating in polling all year, with the current poll the best balance for him to date.

Obama’s job approval fell to 48 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval among likely voters, and 498-47 among all registered voters. Two-weeks earlier it was 53-43 among likely voters and 53-42 among registered voters. 

Senate candidate images
Among likely voters, Baldwin’s favorability rating stands at 32 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, a drop from 40 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable in late September. Thompson received 37 percent favorable to 50 percent unfavorable, little different from 38 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable in the previous poll.

Asked if the phrase “cares about people like you” describes each candidate, 47 percent said it describes Baldwin, while 40 percent said it did not describe her. For Thompson, 42 percent said it described him, while 49 percent said it did not. Neither rating was significantly changed from late September, when Baldwin’s rating was 47-39 and Thompson’s was 41-50.

Advertising and campaign themes
To equal degrees, the negative advertising themes of the Senate campaign have become associated with each candidate. Asked to agree or disagree with themes from recent advertising by each candidate, 48 percent agreed with the statement that Thompson has “sold out to special interests and isn’t working for you anymore,” while 41 percent disagreed. Previously 49 percent agreed and 42 percent disagreed. An identical 48 percent agreed with the statement that Baldwin “is one of the most liberal members of Congress and is too liberal for Wisconsin,” while 41 percent disagreed. Two weeks earlier the results were 45-45.

Policy issues and the presidential race
Likely voters were asked, “regardless of how you intend to vote, which candidate would do a better job handling” each of several issues. The candidates have varying strengths across issues, with Romney doing best on the federal budget deficit and the economy. Obama has slight advantages on taxes and foreign policy and somewhat larger advantages on healthcare and social issues. In all cases, Romney has narrowed the margin or taken the lead since the late September poll, which showed Obama ahead in all policy areas, though with similar areas of relative strength for each candidate.

Federal budget deficit: Obama 45 percent, Romney 52 percent
The economy: Obama 49, Romney 50
Taxes: Obama 50, Romney 47
Foreign Policy: Obama 50, Romney 47
Healthcare: Obama 51, Romney 46
Social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage: Obama 54, Romney 40

Despite the first debate, voters think that neither candidate has been specific enough in providing details of the policies he would pursue in office. Thirty-seven percent said Romney had provided enough details, while 60 percent said he had not, a change from 28 and 69 percent respectively before the debate. Forty-eight percent said Obama had been specific enough, while 49 percent said he had not been. Before the first debate, 46 percent said Obama had provided enough details, while 51 percent said he had not.

Economic outlooks and the vote
Wisconsin likely voters hold mixed views about the economy, with political consequences varying. Looking back over the past 12 months, only 31 percent think that the economy has gotten better, while 37 percent say it has gotten worse and 31 percent say it has stayed about the same. But looking forward to the next 12 months, voters are much more optimistic: 49 percent expect the economy to get better and only 10 percent say it will get worse. Twenty-five percent expect the economy to stay the same, and 15 percent say they don’t know what the economy will do.

Of those who see the economy as having improved over the past year, 91 percent say they will vote for Obama. Of those thinking the economy got worse, 85 percent are voting for Romney. For those who think the economy has stayed about the same, 48 percent support Obama, while 46 percent choose Romney. Among those expecting an improving economy over the next 12 months, 74 percent support Obama, while those expecting a worsening economy give 85 percent to Romney. Treading water on the economy for the next year, however, is not a favorable outlook for Obama: just 32 percent of those expecting the economy to stay the same support him while 62 percent pick Romney. And among those who don’t know what direction the economy is headed, support for Romney over Obama is even stronger, 75-19.

On the question “are you better off than you were four years ago,” 43 percent say better off and 51 percent say worse off. Of the better off, Obama gets 82 percent of the vote to 14 percent for Romney. Among those saying they are worse off, Romney gets 78 percent to Obama’s 19 percent.

Asked about the impact of the recession on their personal finances, 31 percent say they still haven’t recovered, while 37 percent say they have recovered and 30 percent say the recession didn’t have a serious impact on them. Obama receives 34 percent of the vote from those who have still not recovered, while Romney receives 62 percent. Among those saying their finances have recovered, Obama takes 53 percent to Romney’s 44 percent. And for those who escaped serious impact from the recession, Obama gains the support of 58 percent to 39 percent for Romney.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating among registered voters is unchanged at 51-45, from 50 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval in late-September. Among likely voters, 52 percent approved and 45 percent disapproved.

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 2012, it provides a snapshot of voter attitudes from across the state on the 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 a session of “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events will be held at Marquette Law School throughout the year. A video of today’s session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu.

The poll interviewed 1007 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone October 11-14, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points for the full sample. There are 870 “likely voters,” i.e., those who said they were certain to vote in the November elections, with a margin of error for this group being +/- 3.4 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results, and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.