First Marquette Poll Of The Year Delves Into Governor's Race | Wisconsin Public Television

First Marquette Poll Of The Year Delves Into Governor's Race

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Premiere Date: 
March 9, 2018

First Marquette Poll Of The Year Delves Into Governor's Race

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll is in-studio to break down the numbers from the first poll of the year. Franklin discusses who is ahead in the polls for the two major primaries this year--Democrats for governor and Republicans for U.S. Senate. He also talks about President Donald Trump's favorability in the state, which Franklin says is surprisingly steady.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

A first look tonight at how Wisconsinites feel about candidates in the running this year and about issues important to the state. This week, the latest Marquette Law School Poll came out and some of its results are surprising. We're joined by Professor of Law and Public Policy and Director of the Marquette Law School Poll, Charles Franklin. Thanks very much for being here.

Charles Franklin:

Good to be back.

Frederica Freyberg:

According to your polling, Donald Trump's approval rating has ticked up slightly since this time last year. But do his numbers depend kind of on the fluctuations in the news cycle?

Charles Franklin:

Well, they do, I think. He's been actually sort of surprisingly steady. Was at 41 in June. Is at 43% approval now. So just a little bit of a tick up. Nationally he ticked up a little bit over this period, too. He also ticked up just slightly in some other measures. But for the most part, people are divided as you would expect. 89% of Republicans approve. 89% of Democrats disapprove. Independents split 34/57, so that's maybe the more telling group, not the partisans, but those independents.

Frederica Freyberg:

57 disapprove?

Charles Franklin:

Yes.

Frederica Freyberg:

So if President Trump's approval ratings are expected to be any measure for the November vote, how does that affect Governor Walker?

Charles Franklin:

Well, Governor Walker is at about the same place he was last summer. He's at 47 approve, 47 disapprove. It was 48/48 last summer. A year ago he was just a shade down from that at 45/48. So slightly under water. He's come back up to even last summer and still is.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is it hard for him to move that needle even though he's seemingly trying very hard to moderate?

Charles Franklin:

I think it's important to realize this is a governor who has won his elections, including the recall, with 52%, 53%, 52%. This is not a blowout winner in any of these races. And very, very stable. So when we look at his first term, his average was just over 49 approve. Disapprove average just over 44. So maybe he's just a little bit tighter than he was in the first term.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, his challengers in the Democratic primary are many, so many that we didn't make a screen to fill out all their names. But who stands out?

Charles Franklin:

I think the real message here is voters have not yet tuned into this race or the Republican Senate race. And so over two-thirds of voters say they don't know enough to have an opinion about these. Tony Evers, the school superintendent, has the most name recognition but even for him, two-thirds of voters say they don't have enough information about him. He does a little bit better than the others in favorability and a little bit better in the primary trial heat but all of it's essentially inside the margin of error and when we look at the primary vote, 44% of Democrats say they don't know who they're going to vote for. And for most of the candidates, Dem and Rep alike, it's well over three-quarters who don't have an opinion about them.

Frederica Freyberg:

That holds true also in the Supreme Court race, your polling showed, though Rebecca Dallet did top Michael Screnock by four. But these "don't know" numbers seem pretty startling. And they don't have a lot of time.

Charles Franklin:

That's especially true. And especially remember we're coming off a primary that was held just a couple of weeks ago. Over three-quarters don't have an opinion about either one. I think it would be folly to read too much into the comparison of these two numbers given how few people know them. But also remember spring elections have an astonishingly low turnout rate. I believe it was about 11% statewide that turned out in the primary. Historically it'll be around 20% that turn out in April.

Frederica Freyberg:

Contrary to that, 75% of respondents did have an opinion on Tammy Baldwin and her numbers have slipped just a little bit.

Charles Franklin:

Slipped a little bit. She's two points more unfavorable than favorable right now, with 20% plus not having an opinion about her. That's down barely at all from June, but down a little bit from a year ago in March. There has been advertising by outside groups criticizing her over that period, and I think you might look at it and say is that enough to account for a three or four-point move in those two numbers. Yeah, maybe it is. But also she has just begun her advertising campaign. So in the world of these campaigns, hers is sort of the first one to heat up.

Frederica Freyberg:

For her Republican challengers that will be doing a faceoff in a primary, Republican voters that you surveyed, you found that nearly half didn't know them?

Charles Franklin:

Far more than half were unable to rate them. 83 and 85% unable to rate each of them. And in the vote question, 49% said they didn't know how they were going to vote. So just as with the Democratic primary, voters aren't tuned into this. The candidates haven't been advertising enough, haven't been in the news enough, have not yet made themselves known to voters.

Frederica Freyberg:

All of that will tick up in the coming days, no doubt. I want to skip along to one of your issue polling questions and that has to do with guns. You found that 81% of your respondents favored universal background checks and 56% support bans on assault rifles. Were those numbers surprising to you?

Charles Franklin:

Actually, they're in line with what we've seen before. They hadn't gone up. In fact, the background checks was down a couple of points from two years ago. But they show the consensus on background checks. It's sort of a common sense thing to do. 78% of gun households favor background checks. 86% of non-households. So that's as close to a consensual issue on a divisive topic as you're ever going to see. The issue is the state legislature here and the national Congress in Washington, despite this huge consensus on this one particular topic, is unable to craft a legislative majority to move on it. Assault weapons, on the other hand, are more likely divisive issue with a majority of gun households opposing a ban, a majority of non-gun households favoring a ban.

Frederica Freyberg:

Charles Franklin, thanks for your work.

Charles Franklin:

Thank you.

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