Marquette Law School Poll finds U.S. Senate Race Tightens

Obama continues to lead Romney in Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s lead over former Governor Tommy Thompson has tightened to a 48 percent to 44 percent margin among likely voters. In the September 13-16 Marquette Poll, Baldwin led by 50 percent to 41 percent.

In the presidential race, President Barack Obama continues to lead former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 53 percent to 42 percent. In mid-September, Obama led 54 percent to 40 percent.

Partisans remain strongly united behind their party nominees in both races. Baldwin and Thompson each receive the backing of 92 percent of their respective partisans. Obama is supported by 96 percent of Democrats, while Romney gets the votes of 92 percent of Republicans. Independents split evenly in the Senate race, with Baldwin and Thompson each receiving 43 percent. In the presidential race, independents support Obama over Romney, 49 percent to 40 percent. Independents have become more closely divided since mid-September’s poll when they favored Baldwin 50-38 and Obama 53-38. In August, independents favored Thompson by a 10-percentage-point margin and Obama by 2 percentage points.

“While partisans are providing a solid base for both parties, independents are proving more variable in both the Senate and presidential campaigns,” said Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin. “In August, independents leaned a bit Republican in the Senate and slightly Democratic for president. In mid-September, they leaned strongly Democratic in both races, and now they are swinging back to a more competitive balance.”

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted September 27-30. The November matchups and candidate image questions are based on a sample of 894 likely voters and have a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Other results are based on 1003 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Gender gap
The gender gap plays a substantial role in both Senate and presidential contests. Among women, Baldwin leads Thompson by a 54-38 percent margin, while Thompson leads among men 50-41 percent. The gender gap is even wider for the presidential election. Obama holds a 61-36 percent margin among women while Romney leads among men by 49-44 percent.

Senate debate
The first debate between Baldwin and Thompson occurred during the interviews for the poll. A majority of interviews with likely voters, 576, were conducted before the debate, with 318 conducted after the debate. Of those interviewed after the debate, 56 said they had watched the debate, or 18 percent of those interviewed after the debate. There were no statistically significant differences in vote between those interviewed before or after the debate. Of the 56 who watched the debate, 29 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Baldwin while 37 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Thompson, while 31 percent said it made no difference. The very small sample size of debate viewers makes these differences statistically insignificant, with a margin of error of +/- 13 percentage points.

Senate candidate images
Among likely voters, Baldwin’s favorability rating stands at 40 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable, compared to 39 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable in mid-September. Thompson received 38 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable in the latest poll, little changed from 39-48 in mid-September.

Asked if the phrase “cares about people like you” describes each candidate, 47 percent said it describes Baldwin, while 39 percent said it did not describe her. For Thompson, 41 percent said it described him, while 50 percent said it did not.

Advertising and campaign themes
Advertising themes are also reflected in voter perceptions of the candidates. Asked to agree or disagree with themes from recent advertising by each candidate, 49 percent agreed with the statement that Thompson has “sold out to special interests and isn’t working for you anymore,” while 42 percent disagreed. Forty-five percent agreed with the statement that Baldwin “is one of the most liberal members of congress and is too liberal for Wisconsin,” while 45 percent disagreed.

On positive campaign themes 40 percent agreed that Thompson would “stop wasteful spending in Washington,” while 52 percent disagreed. Forty-nine percent agreed that Baldwin would “fight unfair foreign competition,” while 35 percent disagreed.

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 results show variation across issues but a consistent Obama advantage.

Federal budget deficit: Obama 49 percent, Romney 47 percent
The economy: Obama 51, Romney 45
Taxes: Obama 52, Romney 43
Healthcare: Obama 53, Romney 42
Foreign Policy: Obama 54, Romney 42
Social issues such as abortion or same sex marriage: Obama 58, Romney 37

Voters think neither candidate has been specific enough in providing details of the policies he would pursue in office. Twenty-eight percent said Romney had provided enough details, while 69 percent said he had not. Forty-six percent said Obama had provided enough details, while 51 percent said he had not.

While voters may want more details, they say they are unlikely to change their minds after the debates. Only 2 percent of likely voters said they were “very likely” to change their minds as a result of the debates, with an additional 10 percent saying they were “somewhat likely” to change. Twenty-two percent said “not very likely” and fully two-thirds, 66 percent, said they were “not at all likely” to change their minds as a result of the presidential debates.

Presidential candidate images
Obama’s favorable-unfavorable rating among all registered voters stands at 56 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable; among likely voters it is 55 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating among registered voters is 37 percent favorable to 53 percent unfavorable, and among likely voters is 39 percent favorable to 52 percent unfavorable.

By a 60 percent to 38 percent margin, likely voters say “cares about people like you” describes Obama. Thirty-nine percent say the phrase describes Romney, while 56 percent say it does not describe him. Asked if “strong leader” describes each candidate, 54 percent said it describes Obama, while 44 percent said it does not. Forty-seven percent say “strong leader” describes Romney, while 44 percent says it does not describe him.

Collective bargaining
A recent trial-court decision struck down parts of Wisconsin’s “Act 10,” a law that sharply limited collective bargaining for public employees. Registered voters were asked if they would like to see collective bargaining returned to what it was before Act 10 or if they would keep the changes made under the law. Forty-four percent would like to see collective bargaining rights returned, while 49 percent prefer to keep the restrictions enacted by Act 10.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating among registered voters rebounded to 50 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval after dipping to 46 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval in mid-September. Among likely voters, 52 percent approved, while 46 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 that session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu.

The poll interviewed 1003 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone September 27-30, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points for the full sample. There are 894 “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 +/- 3.3 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 Baldwin, Obama gaining in Wisconsin

Baldwin pulls ahead in Senate race, Obama expands lead following conventions

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Rep. Tammy Baldwin taking the lead over former Governor Tommy Thompson in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat, by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin among likely voters. In the August 16-19 Marquette poll, the lead was reversed, with Thompson ahead by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin.

In the presidential race, President Barack Obama has seen a large post-convention bump, with voters preferring him to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 54 percent to 40 percent. In August Obama led 49 percent to 46 percent.

“These are both very large moves in just four weeks,” said Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “National polls and a number of state polls have also found a significant post-convention bounce in favor of Democrats.”

Much of the movement in the poll came among independents. In August independents preferred Thompson by 47 percent to 37 percent among likely Wisconsin voters. That reversed in September, with independents supporting Baldwin by 50 percent to 38 percent. Support among partisans changed only modestly for either candidate. Baldwin solidified her support among Democrats, winning 90 percent of their votes, up from 84 percent in August. Thompson maintained his support among Republicans with 93 percent of their votes, unchanged from 94 percent in August.

The presidential race saw similar shifts among independents, with Obama increasing his lead of 45 percent to 43 percent in August to 53 percent to 38 percent in September. Partisans continued to support their party nominee by 92 percent among Republicans and 95 percent among Democrats, unchanged from 93 percent and 97 percent in August.

Franklin cautioned, however, that there was also movement in the makeup of partisanship in the poll. In September Republicans made up 27 percent of the likely voter sample, down from an average of 30 percent across all eleven Marquette Law School polls conducted since January. Democrats made up 34 percent, up from an average of 32 percent. Independents were 37 percent of the September sample, the same as their average for the year.

“Our September poll makeup is about two points more Democratic and three points less Republican than average, which is within the margin of error,” said Franklin. If the sample were adjusted to match the yearlong average partisan makeup, both margins would tighten, with Baldwin leading 48 to 43 percent and Obama leading 51 to 43 percent.

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted September 13-16. The November matchups, based on a sample of 601 likely voters, have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. Other results are based on 705 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Senate candidate images
The favorability ratings of the Senate candidates also shifted between August and September. In August Thompson was viewed favorably by 42 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 40 percent. In September his favorable rating fell to 39 percent with 48 percent unfavorable. Independents also contributed to this shift, moving from an even 42-42 split in August to a 35 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable rating in September.

Baldwin’s favorability ratings moved from 34 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable in August to 39 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable in September among likely voters. Independents rated her 31 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable in August. In September independents split evenly, 34-34 percent.

Both candidates improved their favorability ratings within their respective parties. In August Thompson was viewed favorably by 66 percent of Republicans, as was Baldwin by 66 percent of Democrats. In September the favorable rating was 77 percent for Thompson among Republicans and 73 percent for Baldwin among Democrats.

Presidential job approval
Obama’s job approval rating among registered voters stands at 54 percent, with 39 percent saying they disapprove of how he has done his job. In the August 16-19 poll, approval was 48 percent, with 45 percent disapproving. Fifty-five percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 39 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 36 percent, with 51 percent unfavorable. In the August poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 52 percent, with 43 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent.

Among likely voters polled, Obama’s rating is 55 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable, while Romney’s is 38 percent favorable and 54 percent unfavorable.

Views of the economy
Views of the economy are a mixture of positive and negative opinions. Twenty-eight percent of registered voters say the economy has improved over the past year while 33 percent say it has gotten worse, with 37 percent saying it has stayed about the same. Views of the next twelve months are more upbeat, with 47 percent saying the economy will improve and only 12 percent saying it will get worse. Twenty-seven percent expect the economy to stay the same.

On the question of whether “you and your family are better off than four years ago,” 47 percent say better off while 49 percent say they are not better off. Asked if “the country as a whole” is better off than four years ago, 46 percent say better while 52 percent say not better.

Asked about the effect of the recession on their personal financial situation, 27 percent say the recession had a major impact on them and that they have not yet recovered. Thirty-four percent say the recession had a major impact but that they have recovered from it, while 36 percent say the recession didn’t have a major effect on their financial situation.

On the question of who is responsible for the current economic problems, 30 percent say President Obama, while 55 percent say former President George W. Bush is responsible.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rating among registered voters dipped to 46 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval. In August it was 50 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

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 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 that session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu.

The poll interviewed 705 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone September 13-16, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 601 “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 +/- 4.1 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 tighter presidential race after Ryan selection

Thompson has lead in U.S. Senate race following primary win

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds the presidential race is tightening in Wisconsin following the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. The poll, conducted August 16-19, finds that 49 percent of likely voters say they will vote for Democratic President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, while 46 percent say they will vote for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and Ryan. In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, conducted August 2-5 before Ryan’s selection, Obama led 50 to 45 percent.

“The two-point shift in Romney’s direction is within the margin of error for the poll but suggests Ryan’s addition to the ticket may have slightly increased Romney’s chances in Wisconsin,” said Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

In the U.S. Senate race between former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Thompson holds a 50 percent to 41 percent advantage following his victory in the GOP primary Aug. 14. In the early August poll, Thompson led 48 percent to 43 percent.

The poll of both landline and cell phone users was conducted August 16-19. The November matchups, based on a sample of 576 likely voters, have a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points. Other results are based on 706 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Impact of the Paul Ryan selection
Asked how they would rate Romney’s selection of Ryan, 31 percent said “excellent,” 27 percent “pretty good,” 16 percent “only fair,” and 19 percent said “poor.”

Asked if the selection of Ryan made them more likely to vote for Romney, 29 percent said more likely while 16 percent said less likely and 53 percent said it would not have much effect. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said Ryan’s selection made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 2 percent of Democrats said so. Among independents who said they don’t lean towards either party 23 percent said they were more likely now to support Romney while 17 percent said less likely and 54 percent said it made no difference.

Ryan’s selection as vice-presidential candidate has raised public awareness of him. In the July 5-8 Marquette Law Poll, Ryan was rated favorably by 36 percent, unfavorably by 29 percent, and 35 percent were unable to rate him. Since his selection, both his favorable and unfavorable ratings have increased by five percentage points, to 41 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable, with 24 percent unable to rate him.

Fifty-eight percent said Romney’s choice of Ryan reflects favorably on his ability to make important presidential decisions, while 31 percent said it reflected unfavorably.

Ryan is seen as qualified to serve as president, if that should become necessary, by 55 percent, and as not qualified by 37 percent.

Senate candidate images
Following the Republican primary, Thompson is viewed favorably by 40 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 38 percent, with 21 percent not giving a rating. Baldwin has ratings of 32 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable, with 31 percent unable to rate.

There is sharp division along party lines. Among Republicans, 62 percent have a favorable view of Thompson, with 14 percent unfavorable and 24 percent unable to rate him. Among Democrats, Baldwin has a 64 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable rating, with 30 percent unable to rate her. Images of the opposite party’s candidate are sharply negative. Among Democrats, 21 percent have a favorable view of Thompson, with 62 percent unfavorable and 17 percent unable to rate. Republicans give Baldwin a 5 percent favorable and 72 percent unfavorable rating, with 23 percent unable to rate.

Among independents, 40 percent said they had a favorable view of Thompson, while 38 percent said unfavorable, with 21 percent unable to rate. Independents gave Baldwin 28 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable ratings, with 37 percent unable to rate.

Vote choice is similarly polarized by party. Ninety-four percent of Republicans said they will vote for Thompson, while 3 percent pick Baldwin. Among Democrats, 85 percent support Baldwin with 11 percent for Thompson. Independents split 47 percent for Thompson and 38 percent for Baldwin.

Presidential job approval
Obama’s job approval rating stands at 48 percent, with 45 percent saying they disapprove of how he has done his job. In the early-August poll, approval was 50 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Fifty-two percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 43 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 35 percent, with 45 percent unfavorable. In the July poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent, with 42 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 36 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent.

The Future of Medicare
Wisconsin voters are conflicted about the future of Medicare. Respondents were offered two options:
Which of these two descriptions comes closer to your view of what Medicare should look like in the future?

Option A: Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits.
Option B: Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government would guarantee each senior a fixed amount of money to put toward health insurance. Seniors would purchase that coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans.

Fifty-five percent prefer Option A, the current Medicare system, while 38 percent favor Option B, which offers government support for the individual to purchase private insurance.

But when asked if the federal government can find ways to continue the current Medicare system or whether major changes are required because the current system is too expensive to continue, only 37 percent think the current system can be maintained while 55 percent think major changes are required.

Scott Walker approval ratings
Governor Scott Walker’s job approval rate remains virtually unchanged since early August, with 50 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval. Approval was 51 percent in the first week of August, with 44 percent disapproving.

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 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 that session can be viewed at law.marquette.edu.

The poll interviewed 706 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone August 16-19, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 576 “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 +/- 4.2 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results, and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.