It’s July again in Wisconsin. What does that say about November?
Most likely, it says that the two big political contests in Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes for president and a US Senate seek at stake, are not done-deals and that there will be continuing volatility among voters and intense campaigning by candidates for the next 10 weeks.
You can think of this as July in terms of the results of the Marquette Law School Poll. A new round of results, released on Wednesday, showed that both the presidential and Senate races had tightened since the most recent round of polling three weeks earlier. And the bump that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received in the early-August poll, conducted shortly after the national political conventions and amid a series of troubled developments for the Republican candidate Donald Trump, is gone. “The electorate in Wisconsin has returned to about where the vote stood in July, prior to the conventions,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at Marquette Law School.
After a series of troubled developments for Clinton in recent weeks, her numbers were less favorable on a range of questions and she and Trump were back in a close race. The poll found Clinton ahead in Wisconsin by five percentage points among registered voters and three percentage points among likely voters.
Trump continued to have poor but generally stable results on questions such as whether you have a favorable opinion of him, whether you think he is honest, and whether you would be comfortable with him as president. But Clinton’s results on those questions were not much different than his.
In the Senate race, Democrat Russ Feingold led Republican Ron Johnson by four percentage points among all registered voters, down from six points three weeks earlier. And Feingold led among likely voters by three percentage points, down from eleven points in early August. Those results were also more like the July results than the early August results.
Franklin said trends to keep an eye on in coming weeks will include indicators of voter turnout. The new poll showed an increase in Republicans intending to vote and a decrease in Democrats intending to vote. The changes were not large, but they could be enough to be important.
Interesting results in the new poll include two sets of data. One shows that Trump is winning in Wisconsin among higher income voters while Clinton is doing well among middle and low-income voters. That differs from some commentaries that have painted many Trump supporters as lower income. A second set shows Trump winning among the nearly-half of all those polled who think the next generation of Americans will not have as good a life as the current generation, while Clinton does well among those who are more optimistic about the future or think it will, at least, not be worse than the present.
Near the end of the program three weeks ago when poll results were released, a member of the audience asked if, in reality, the presidential and Senate races were as good as over in Wisconsin. Franklin said then that he wouldn’t agree with that and things change during the course of a campaign.
At the session this week, no one asked a question like that, and it was clear that Franklin was right.