Marquette Law School Poll finds tighter U.S. Senate race and GOP primary

Obama continues to lead Romney in latest poll

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School poll finds the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination has tightened since mid-June. Former Governor Tommy Thompson continues to lead the race with support of 35 percent of likely primary voters, but businessman Eric Hovde now holds the support of 23 percent, up from the 14 percent he received in mid-June. Thompson’s support was 34 percent in the June poll. Former Congressman Mark Neumann is supported by 10 percent while Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is at 6 percent. Neumann was at 16 percent in June, while Fitzgerald was at 10 percent. A quarter of likely voters, 25 percent, remain undecided, the same as in the June survey.

In matchups for the November U.S. Senate election, Thompson receives 45 percent to Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s 41 percent, a difference that is within the margin of error of the poll. In June, Thompson had 49 percent to Baldwin’s 41 percent. When matched against Hovde, Baldwin receives 44 percent to Hovde’s 38 percent. Baldwin receives 43 percent to Neumann’s 40 percent. Baldwin also receives 43 percent to Fitzgerald’s 37 percent. All four matchups are within the margin of error. In mid-June, Baldwin and Neumann were tied at 44 percent each; Baldwin held a 45-36 advantage over Hovde and a 45-39 margin over Fitzgerald.

“The tightening of the race is consistent with other recent polls in the state,” said Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin. A poll earlier in the week by Public Policy Polling (PPP) also showed all the November Senate matchups within the margin of error. Unlike the Marquette Law School Poll, however, the PPP poll found Hovde at 31 percent to Thompson’s 29 percent. “We continue to see a significant Thompson lead, unlike PPP, but our findings are consistent with others that have shown substantial recent gains by Hovde and some slippage by Neumann,” said Franklin. “We differ on the size of the gains but agree on the momentum currently demonstrated by the Hovde campaign.”

In the presidential race, President Barack Obama leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent. In June, Obama had 49 percent to Romney’s 43 percent. The presidential race has remained stable since late May when Obama also led 51-43.

The poll was conducted July 5-8 by both landline and cell phone. The November matchups for 810 likely voters have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, while the result for 432 likely voters in the Republican primary has a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points.

Senate candidate images
Thompson remains the best known among likely Republican primary voters with a 58 percent favorable rating, 27 percent unfavorable and 14 percent unable to give a rating. Hovde receives a 34 percent favorable to 7 percent unfavorable balance, but 58 percent are still unable to give a reaction to him. Neumann’s rating is 34 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable, with 47 percent unable to rate, while Fitzgerald is at 28 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable and 61 percent unable to rate.

Wisconsin’s open primary system means that Democrats are free to vote in the Republican primary. In the April 3 Republican presidential primary, Democrats made up 11 percent of voters, according to exit polls. In the current Marquette Law School Poll, Democrats comprise 16 percent of likely August primary voters. The presence of Democratic voters makes relatively little difference to the results, however. Among Republicans who are likely voters, Thompson has the support of 35 percent to Hovde’s 22 percent, with Neumann at 13 percent and Fitzgerald at 8 percent.

Among Tea Party supporters, Thompson and Hovde are nearly tied, 29-26 percent, with Neumann and Fitzgerald both at 10 percent. Tea Party supporters make up 49 percent of likely primary voters. Among those who do not have a favorable view of the Tea Party, Thompson leads Hovde 41-19 percent, with Neumann at 10 percent and Fitzgerald at 3 percent.

Among those describing their political views as “very conservative,” Hovde holds 27 percent to Thompson’s 21 percent, with Neumann the choice of 17 percent and Fitzgerald at 9 percent. This group makes up 14 percent of likely primary voters. Among the 48 percent of primary voters who call themselves “conservative,” Thompson takes 41 percent, Hovde 25 percent, Neumann 8 percent and Fitzgerald 6 percent.

Presidential race and the economy

Obama’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. In the mid-June poll, approval was 52 percent with 43 percent disapproving. Fifty-one percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama while 42 percent say unfavorable. Romney’s favorable rating stands at 36 percent with 42 percent unfavorable. In the June poll, Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent with 39 percent unfavorable, while Romney was viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent.

Views of the economy are strongly associated with presidential vote. Among likely voters, 22 percent think that the economy has gotten better over the past year, and they support Obama over Romney by 77 percent to 15 percent. Among the 33 percent thinking that the economy got worse, 72 percent support Romney and 24 percent support Obama. Forty-two percent see no change in the economy, and they support Obama over Romney by 58-37 percent.

Looking to the future, 42 percent think the economy will improve over the next year, and they support Obama by a 66 percent to 28 percent margin over Romney. Among the 18 percent who expect the economy to worsen, Romney wins 71 percent to Obama’s 22 percent. Thirty-three percent expect the economy to stay about the same in the coming year. They give Obama 50 percent to Romney’s 44 percent.

As for their personal financial situation, 29 percent of likely voters said they had not recovered from the effect of the recession. This group slightly favored Romney over Obama, 48 percent to 45 percent. Among those who said that the recession had a major effect on their finances but that they had now recovered, Obama received 51 percent to Romney’s 44 percent. Thirty-three percent said the recession had not had a major effect on their finances, and they favored Obama with 54 percent to Romney’s 40 percent.

Income is also associated with vote. Romney wins 49 percent to Obama’s 46 percent in households earning over $75,000 per year. Among those with earnings between $40,000 and $75,000 Obama gets 52 percent to Romney’s 45 percent. For those earning under $40,000, Obama wins 61 percent to Romney’s 33 percent.

U.S. Supreme Court and health care reform
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on health care reform had little net impact on opinions of Wisconsin voters. Prior to the ruling, 46 percent of Wisconsin voters said that they approved of the way the U.S. Supreme Court was handling its job while 35 percent disapproved. After the ruling, 46 percent approved while 41 percent disapproved, a six-point increase in disapproval. Opinion about the health care law was also relatively unchanged after the ruling. Prior to the Court’s decision, 33 percent said they wanted the entire law upheld, 19 percent wanted only the individual mandate overturned and 38 percent wanted the entire law overturned. After the decision 33 percent supported the entire law, 21 percent wanted only the mandate removed and 36 percent said they wanted the entire law overturned.

While opinions about the health care law and overall approval of the court showed little net change, partisan views of the Court shifted substantially. Prior to the decision, Republicans approved of the Court by a 55 percent to 26 percent margin, while Democrats split 40-38. Forty-five percent of independents approved while 40 percent disapproved. A week after the Court’s health care decision, Republican approval fell to 32 percent with 56 percent disapproving, while Democratic approval rose to 57 percent with 30 percent disapproving. Independents moved to 50 percent approval and 38 percent disapproval.

Scott Walker approval ratings
A month after winning the recall election, Governor Scott Walker holds a 50 percent job approval rating with 44 percent disapproving. Partisan division remains strong, with 88 percent of Republicans approving and 80 percent of Democrats disapproving. Fifty-two percent of independents approve of Walker’s handling of his job while 41 percent disapprove.

Marquette Law School Poll finds Thompson leading U.S. Senate Race

Obama ahead of Romney in latest poll

Milwaukee, Wis. – A new Marquette Law School poll finds former Governor Tommy Thompson holding an eight-point lead over Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, 49 percent to 41 percent among likely voters, in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race. Thompson also holds the advantage among those planning to vote in the August 14 Republican primary; 34 percent of likely primary voters said they would support him. Former Congressman Mark Neumann has 16 percent, businessman Eric Hovde has 14 percent and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is at 10 percent. A substantial 25 percent said that they were undecided or didn’t know whom they would support in the Republican primary.

In other matchups for the November U.S. Senate race, Baldwin and Neumann are tied at 44 percent each; Baldwin receives 45 percent support to Fitzgerald’s 39 percent; and Baldwin has a nine-point edge, 45 percent to 36 percent, over Hovde.

In the presidential race, 49 percent said they would vote for President Barack Obama, to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 43 percent. In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, conducted May 23-26, Obama led 51-43.

The poll was conducted June 13-16 by both landline and cell phone. The November matchups for likely voters have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points while the result for Republican primary voters has a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.

Candidate images

Among the entire sample of registered voters, Thompson is best known, with 84 percent name recognition. He is viewed favorably by 48 percent and unfavorably by 36 percent. Baldwin is less well known, with 57 percent name recognition, which splits 27 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable. Slightly less well known is Neumann, with 48 percent recognition and an evaluation of 24 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable. Fitzgerald is recognized by 39 percent, with 17 percent favorable to 22 percent unfavorable. Hovde remains the least recognized, with 27 percent able to give an opinion about him, dividing 14 percent favorable to 13 percent unfavorable.

Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin noted, “The gubernatorial recall election dominated the attention of Wisconsin voters, resulting in less awareness of and knowledge about most of the U.S. Senate candidates at this point. As the campaign approaches the August 14 primary, we would expect to see substantial gains in voters’ knowledge of all the candidates.”

The images of the Republican candidates are somewhat different among likely GOP primary voters. Thompson has 60 percent favorable to 27 percent unfavorable ratings among these voters, with just 13 percent unable to give a rating. Neumann is rated favorably by 38 percent and unfavorably by 18 percent, with 44 percent unable to rate him. Fitzgerald has a 30 percent favorable rating to 16 percent unfavorable, with 53 percent unable to rate him. Hovde is viewed favorably by 22 percent of GOP primary voters, with 11 percent unfavorable and 67 percent unable to rate him.

There is no contested Democratic primary for comparison, but among likely voters who are Democrats or independents who lean towards the Democratic party, Baldwin is viewed favorably by 54 percent and unfavorably by 8 percent, with 38 percent unable to give an impression.

Presidential race

President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 52 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove, unchanged since the previous poll May 23-26. Fifty-three percent say they have a favorable opinion of Obama while 39 percent say unfavorable. Governor Romney’s favorable rating stands at 35 percent with 43 percent unfavorable. In the late May poll Obama’s favorable rating was 55 percent with 41 percent unfavorable while Romney was viewed favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 47 percent. The June poll was completed prior to Romney’s visit to Janesville on June 18.

Republicans somewhat more engaged

In the aftermath of the recalls, Republicans remain a bit more enthusiastic about voting. Ninety-three percent of Republicans said they were certain to vote in November, compared to 85 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents. Among all registered voters, Democrats make up 30 percent to 27 percent for Republicans, but among likely voters that three-percentage-point Democratic advantage shrinks to just one point, with 31 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican among likely voters.

Opinion of recalls

Wisconsin voters have shifted their opinion of recalls since January. Then 43 percent said they would like to see recalls “only in cases of criminal wrongdoing,” while 53 percent favored keeping the current rules “with no such restrictions.” In the new June poll, those numbers have reversed, with 50 percent now wishing to limit recalls to cases involving criminal wrongdoing while 44 percent wish to keep the current law.

Governor Scott Walker received the votes of 70 percent of those wishing to limit recalls, while Mayor Tom Barrett was supported by 61 percent of those wishing to keep the recalls without restrictions. The possible impact of views of the recall process is more clearly seen among those who might be expected to vote against Walker. Among those who disapprove of the job Walker is doing as governor, and therefore might be expected to vote against him, Walker received 4 percent of the vote among those who favor the current recall law but 8 percent among those who want to see the law limited. A larger effect appears in the decision to vote at all. Among those disapproving of Walker yet preferring limits on the recall, 26 percent did not vote, whereas 13 percent did not vote among those disapproving of Walker while supporting the current law.

Partisan cooperation

An overwhelming 84 percent of registered voters say they would like to see more cooperation between the parties, with just 11 percent saying it is better for the parties to stand for different things even if that prevents cooperation. But asked if they think cooperation between the parties is possible or if the differences are too great for cooperation, just over half (55 percent) thought cooperation was possible while 41 percent thought party differences are too great. Republicans were a bit more optimistic about cooperation, with 61 percent saying that it is possible, while 58 percent of independents and 48 percent of Democrats said the same. Interestingly, reminding poll respondents that both Walker and Barrett had called for cooperation in their election night speeches had no statistically significant effect on views of cooperation.

U.S. Supreme Court and health care reform

Wisconsin voters express limited approval of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing, with 46 percent approving and 35 percent disapproving, a result in line with recent national polls. With the Supreme Court likely to release its decision on health care reform soon, Wisconsin voters are divided in their opinion of the law. Thirty-three percent would like to see the Court keep the entire law intact, while 19 percent favor overturning only the part of the law that requires individuals to purchase insurance and 38 percent hope to see the Court overturn the entire law.

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 “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at Marquette Law School. Similar poll release events will be held at Marquette Law School throughout the year.

The poll interviewed 707 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone June 13-16, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points for the full sample. There are 594 “likely voters,” those who said they were certain to vote in the November elections, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. For the August Republican primary there are 344 likely voters with a margin of error of +/-5.4 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at