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.