Obama, Walker job approvals slip below 50 percent in Marquette Law School Poll

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds that job approval ratings for Gov. Scott Walker and President Barack Obama both have slipped below 50 percent in Wisconsin, with sharp differences evident among blocks of swing voters and across various regions in the state.

Walker’s job approval in July stands at 48 percent, with 46 percent disapproval. In May, approval was 51 percent with disapproval at 45 percent. In March, approval was 50 percent with 44 percent disapproval. The three-point shift from May to July is within the 3.7 percentage-point margin of error for the poll. Walker’s approval has hovered between 50 and 51 percent since the recall election in June 2012, falling below 50 percent in three of eleven polls, including this latest one.

Obama’s job approval in July is 47 percent with 46 percent disapproval. In May, it was 50-45 and in March 48-45.

Despite their similar overall approval ratings, the public is sharply divided between the two: 34 percent approve of Obama and disapprove of Walker; 36 percent disapprove of Obama and approve of Walker. Eleven percent approve of both while 9 percent disapprove of both. The remaining 10 percent lack an opinion about one or both.

Partisanship sharply divides views of Obama and Walker, but there is slightly more polarization of opinion of the president than of the governor. Democrats approve of Obama by a 90-8 margin, while Republicans approve of Walker by 81-12. Republicans disapprove of Obama by 10-86 while Democrats disapprove of Walker by 12-82. For the president that is a net polarization of 79 percentage points out of a possible 100, while for the governor the net polarization is 69.5 percentage points.

Differing views for independents, moderates
Two categories of swing voters provide different views of both Obama and Walker. Independents have a net negative evaluation of Obama’s handling of his job: 40 percent approve while 52 percent disapprove. In contrast, the same voters give a net positive rating to Walker, as 54 percent approve while 41 percent disapprove.

People who call themselves political “moderates,” however, reverse this pattern. Moderates give Obama a net positive rating: 54 percent approval to 35 percent disapproval. Moderates are net negative toward Walker, with 40 percent approval to 50 percent disapproval.

Independents make up 39 percent of registered voters in the July poll, while moderates account for 33 percent. Independents lean about equally toward one party or the other, with 39 percent of independents leaning Democratic and 35 percent leaning Republican in the July polling data. Twenty-one percent of independents say they don’t lean toward either party.

Liberals and conservatives divide as expected, with 80 percent of liberals approving of Obama and 77 percent of conservatives disapproving of Obama. For Walker, conservatives register a 76 percent approval rating while liberals give Walker an 80 percent disapproval rating.

Regional differences highlighted
Regional differences in views of the president and governor are substantial. Respondents in the city of Milwaukee give Obama a 71 percent approval rating, with the Madison television market following with a 54 percentage-point approval. Approval falls to 45 percent in the western and northern parts of the state, and to 42 percent in the Green Bay-Appleton media market. Approval of Obama is lowest in the Milwaukee region outside the city, where 41 percent approve.

Approval of the job Walker is doing as governor reverses that pattern. Walker’s lowest approval rating, 30 percent, comes in the city of Milwaukee, followed by 36 percent in the Madison area. Approval stands at 52 percent in the Milwaukee market outside the city and rises to 55 percent in Green Bay-Appleton and 56 percent in the west and north of the state.

A clear gender gap is apparent in the poll, with a slightly larger gap over the governor’s job performance than for the president. Women give Obama a 51-42 percent approval-disapproval rating, while men split 43-51. In evaluating Walker’s performance, women give a similar net gap, with a 43-52 split. Men, however, are more approving of Walker, with a 54-39 split, a net 15-point margin compared to their net 8-point margin (in the other direction) on Obama. In this case, the gender gap is a bit more due to approval of Walker among men than to women’s disapproval.

Economic optimism slipping
Views of the economy remain mixed, with a decline in positive views since May.

The public is equally split, with 29 percent saying that the economy improved over the past year and 29 percent that it worsened. Forty-one percent think the economy stayed about the same. That is a more negative view than in May, when 34 percent said the economy had improved and 23 percent said it had worsened over the past year. July’s poll is similar to the results in March, when 28 percent saw improvement and an equal 28 percent saw a worsening of the economy, while 43 saw no change.

Looking ahead, 31 percent think the economy will get better in the next 12 months while 20 percent say it will worsen and 45 percent expect no change. That is more pessimistic than in May, when 39 percent expected improvement over the coming year, 20 percent expected conditions to worsen and 37 percent expected no change. In March, 33 percent expected improvement, 26 expected worsening and 38 percent expected no change.

Approval ratings linked to views on job creation
Voters continue to see Wisconsin as lagging behind other states in job creation, with 48 percent saying so. Thirty-five percent think the state is adding jobs at about the same rate as other states, and just 8 percent think Wisconsin is creating jobs faster than other states. In May the results were nearly identical: 49-35-9.

Views of the jobs situation in Wisconsin are sharply different among partisans. Among Republicans, 19 percent think Wisconsin is adding jobs faster than other states, 48 percent say at the same rate and 24 percent say lagging behind. Among Democrats, only 1 percent see the state outpacing other states, 22 percent say it is keeping pace and 68 percent see Wisconsin falling behind. The perceptions of independents are quite close to the overall results, with 6 percent saying Wisconsin is adding jobs faster, 38 percent saying at the same pace, and 48 percent seeing it as lagging.

Despite the sharp partisan differences, perceptions among supporters of each party when it comes to job creation do affect the approval rating of Walker. Republicans who think the state is keeping pace or adding jobs faster than other states give Walker an approval rating of 87 percent, while those Republicans who see jobs lagging behind approve at a 63 percent rate. Democrats who see the state at least holding its own in job creation have a 29 percent approval rating of Walker, while those seeing jobs falling short approve at a 5 percent rate. Among independents, those seeing at least equal job creation approve at 79 percent, while those who see lagging job creation give a 27 percent approval rating to Walker.

A similar pattern applies to Obama’s job performance and the evaluation of the economy over the past year. Twenty-one percent of Republicans think the economy improved over the past year, while 41 percent of Democrats think so. Among independents, 26 percent see improvement. Among those Republicans who see improvement, 19 percent approve of Obama’s handing of his job versus just 2 percent among those who see the economy as worsening. Among Democrats, those who see improvement give the president a 95 percent approval rating, which drops to 80 percent approval among those who see worsening. Independents who see a better economy approve of Obama at a 53 percent rate, while those seeing worsening approve at a 36 percent rate.

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.

This poll interviewed 713 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone July 15-18, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points for the full sample. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.

Marquette Law School Poll looks at 2016 presidential candidates, state budget issues and background checks for guns

MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan leading the field in his home state for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, with support from 27 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters and independents who lean Republican. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has the support of 21 percent, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is third with 16 percent support. Other potential candidates include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 11 percent, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 7 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 5 percent and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at 1 percent. Twelve percent said they didn’t know or preferred someone else.

On the Democratic side in Wisconsin, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the choice of 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, while Vice President Joe Biden is the choice of 13 percent. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has 5 percent support, followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 4 percent, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick with 2 percent and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner with 1 percent each.

In an early look at the 2016 general election matchups in the state, Clinton leads all potential nominees, with the closest contest between Clinton (48%) and Ryan (44%). Clinton leads Christie 46 to 40 percent, and she is ahead of Walker 50 to 42 percent. Her lead expands against Paul, 51 to 37 percent, and against Rubio, 51 to 35 percent.

Walker’s job as governor
Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval stands at 51 percent while disapproval is 45 percent. In March, Walker’s approval was 50 percent with 44 percent disapproval. Voters have begun to be a bit more optimistic about the economy, with 39 percent thinking that it will get better over the next year, 20 percent that it will get worse and 37 percent that it will stay about the same. In March, 33 percent expected a better economy, while 26 percent said they thought it would worsen and 38 percent said it would stay the same.

Wisconsin voters are less positive about jobs in the state, with 49 percent saying Wisconsin is lagging behind other states in creating jobs. Just 9 percent said Wisconsin was creating jobs faster than other states, with 35 percent saying Wisconsin was creating jobs at the same rate as other states.

Perceptions of job growth are strongly affected by partisanship. Just 26 percent of Republicans but 47 percent of independents see Wisconsin lagging behind other states in job creation. Fully 70 percent of Democrats say that Wisconsin trails other states.

Perceptions of job growth also affect evaluations of Gov. Walker. Among Republicans who see job creation either leading or keeping pace with other states, Walker’s job approval rating is more than 96 percent. But that falls to 76 percent among Republicans who see the state lagging behind. Among independents who see Wisconsin as keeping pace or doing better, 75 percent approve of Walker’s job performance. But among independents who see the state lagging, approval falls to 38 percent. Among the 30 percent of Democrats who see a more positive jobs picture, 24 percent approve of Walker’s job performance, but among the 70 percent who see the state lagging behind, approval is 6 percent.

Voucher school expansion
Opinion on the role of publicly funded vouchers for private schools remains divided. Thirty-two percent favor expanding the voucher program statewide, while an additional 16 percent support expansion to larger school districts only. Fifteen percent oppose any expansion beyond Milwaukee and Racine, which have voucher programs now, and an additional 29 percent want to end the voucher program entirely. In March, the numbers were similar, with 37 percent favoring statewide expansion and 14 percent supporting expansion in large districts only, while 14 percent opposed expansion and 28 percent preferred ending the voucher program.

Support for increased funding for public schools remains high with 67 percent favoring an increase of 1.5 percent or more for public school operations. Twenty-two percent would hold spending constant, while 7 percent would prefer a reduction in spending on public schools. In March, 72 percent favored an increase of some level while 25 percent supported a freeze or a cut in state support.

The public remains divided on how to pay for desired increases in support for public schools. Asked which was more important to them, 49 percent said reducing property taxes while 46 percent said increasing spending on public schools. Opinion was about the same among parents of school-age children, with 48 percent saying property tax reduction was more important and 50 percent saying increasing spending on schools was more important. Among voters without school-age children, 49 percent said tax reduction was more important while 45 percent said increased spending was more important.

Budget items
The public remains skeptical of increased borrowing for highway projects. Asked if they were willing to see the state borrow money to pay for highway projects, 24 percent were willing and 72 percent unwilling. Voters, however, were also unwilling to see increases in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees as a means of paying for highway work, with 27 percent willing and 71 percent unwilling. Delaying planned projects as a means of saving money was supported by 52 percent and opposed by 44 percent. Those results are virtually identical to the same questions in the March poll. Asked specifically in a subsequent question if they would support borrowing $994 million for road construction, 23 percent supported the proposed bonding while 73 percent opposed it.

Fifty-five percent said they favored a proposed $330 million dollar tax cut with 36 percent opposed.

UW funding
In the wake of controversy over the level of reserve funds held across the University of Wisconsin system, support is strong for a proposed two-year tuition freeze, with 76 percent in favor and 21 percent opposed. However, views on cutting state support for the UW system are divided. Forty-four percent support reducing the proposed $181 million in additional state support for the UW system, but slightly more, 50 percent, favor maintaining that level of additional support.

Background checks for gun sales
Following the U.S. Senate vote against a bill expanding background checks on gun sales, 72 percent say they support background checks on private sales of guns and at gun shows, while 26 percent oppose such background checks. In March, before the Senate vote, 81 percent supported and 18 percent opposed these background checks. As in the March poll, majorities of both gun owners (67 percent) and non-owners (78 percent) favored background checks. Forty-four percent of respondents said they own a gun.

In light of the debate in the Senate, respondents were asked if they approved or disapproved of the positions taken by Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Thirty-two percent said they approved of Johnson’s opposition to background checks while 57 percent said they disapproved of his position. Ten percent said the background check issue wasn’t important to them either way. Sixty-eight percent said they approved of Baldwin’s support for background checks, with 23 percent disapproving and 8 percent saying the issue wasn’t important to them.

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.

Last week, Marquette University announced that Charles Franklin will join Marquette Law School as a full-time faculty member Aug. 1, continuing in his role as poll director and becoming a professor of law and public policy. The move allows Franklin to use the Marquette Law School Poll to explore additional public policy issues and track upcoming political races of interest to voters. Franklin is leaving the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been a professor of political science since 1992. He was a visiting professor at Marquette in 2012.

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 the following website, which also contains archived video of past guests.

The poll interviewed 717 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone May 6-9, 2013. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points for the full sample. For the Republican presidential nomination item, the sample size is 302 with a margin of error of +/-5.8 percentage points. The Democratic presidential nomination item sample size is 333 with a margin of error of +/-5.5 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.