Polls suggest tight 2022 midterm margins in Wisconsin

Elections

Polls suggest tight 2022 midterm margins in Wisconsin

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

June 24, 2022

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Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, discusses its June 2022 findings on primary candidates for governor and U.S. Senate as well as approval ratings for Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.


Frederica Freyberg:
In the 2022 elections the primary in Wisconsin for Governor and US Senate are now just six weeks away on August nine. And Marquette Law School pollster Charles Franklin took voters’ temperature on the candidates this week. He joins us now with results of his latest statewide poll. And Charles thanks very much for being here.

Charles Franklin:
Good to be here.

Frederica Freyberg:
So before getting into your latest polling, in May your survey found that 69% of respondents did not favor overturning Roe V. Wade. Well now this has happened. Where do voters go with that sentiment?

Charles Franklin:
Yeah, and that 69% was in the national survey. So those were voters nationwide. Here in Wisconsin we’ve consistently found around 59 or 60% favor legal abortion in all or most cases. About 35% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. And those numbers have barely budged over the last decade. I think what the court’s decision today does though is it throws abortion policy back to governors and legislatures around the country. And that makes this an issue in which those governors and legislatures have vastly more control than they have had for 49 years. That makes it likely that this becomes a really pertinent issue in the fall campaigns. Whether it changes anyone’s mind or changes their votes that remains to be seen. But it’s hard to imagine a world in which these are not pertinent political issues for statewide elections here and elsewhere in the country.

Frederica Freyberg:
Yeah, indeed. Let’s get now then to the results of this week’s political polling. According to your results Tim Michels has shot up to the top now by one, 27 to 26% over Rebecca Kleefisch. Kevin Nicholson sits at 10% and Tim Ramthun comes in at 3%. Now it didn’t take Michels long to make it competitive with the front runner.

Charles Franklin:
No, it seems really clear that there were voters sitting on the sidelines in the Republican primary that did come to him quickly, you know, a little over a month and a half after he got in the race. Kleefisch came down but by just six points from 32 to 26 while Michels picks up 27%. So obviously most of what he picked up came from don’t knows which came down from nearly half to only about a third now. Nicholson’s vote and Ramthun’s vote were unchanged from last time. So I do think you’re seeing not so much Michels pulling support away from Kleefisch, though maybe some, but more picking up among those undecideds. The other thing I just point out is we have two clear front runners here who are really neck and neck and a third of the votes still undecided in that race.

Frederica Freyberg:
Yeah, meanwhile Evers beats all of the Republican candidates by a little. So how key will turnout be?

Charles Franklin:
Well turnout could matter a lot. Evers has a little bit of an edge, four points over Kleefisch, seven over Michels. But if you look at only the voters who are most enthusiastic about voting it’s possible to flip that and put the Republicans just slightly ahead. So right now I would say Evers has a little bit of an edge but turnout could make a difference depending on how small the turnout is this fall, or how energized voters who might normally sit out the fall election become due to various issues over the course of the campaign.

Frederica Freyberg:
In the democratic primary for US Senate Mandela Barnes is still on top with 25%, Alex Lasry at 21%, Sarah Godlewski 9%. And Tom Nelson is at 7%. In this race here poll shows 36% on undecided. What’s it take in this race for a candidate to break through?

Charles Franklin:
Well at the moment I think it’s just a matter of time. In past primaries we have seen a lot of voters wait until July to make up their minds. So I don’t think either of these two-party races, Republican and Democrats are unusual with about a third undecided at this point. But I do think in both races we see two clear front runners who are pretty close to each other, and then a second tier aways back. Now in the democratic side everybody picked up some support over the last two months, but the margin between Barnes and Lasry is four points this time. It was three points last time. So no breakaway at all there. Just as on the Republican side we saw Michels take a lot of votes but not a breakaway candidacy there either.

Frederica Freyberg:
Again in this race all the dems with the exception of Lasry and you’re polling are up on Johnson. Is this a surprise?

Charles Franklin:
I think it’s a surprise only to the extent that Senator Johnson’s favorability numbers have been underwater more unfavorable than favorable for a good long while now. But I think you’re also seeing the power of party to bring people back to their party’s candidate. We see that with Johnson, among Republicans he gets a significantly higher percentage of the vote than he gets favorability ratings from Republicans. Among Evers it’s Democrats who are disapproving but are nevertheless voting for him. And so in both of these cases you see the power of party.

Frederica Freyberg:
Let’s talk about enthusiasm. Republicans have more of it than Democrats and independents coming into these elections. And you spoke a little bit about that but what happens when there’s this enthusiasm gap like this?

Charles Franklin:
Yeah, I think there are a couple of things that are going on. One is of course national conditions where President Biden’s job approval is at its lowest level that we’ve measured here in the state. Concern about inflation is sky high. And those things are drags on Democrats generally. And we see it in the national surveys where Republicans are more enthused about voting. Here in Wisconsin we saw no difference two months ago and a small Republican advantage in February. But this month we’re seeing a bigger gap. Again, I stress does this continue? Because both parties are going to be working incredibly hard to reach voters and motivate them and turn them out this fall. So in that sense, where turnout ends up is very much in the hands of the voters themselves and of the parties and the campaigns.

Frederica Freyberg:
I want to talk about Senator Johnson’s favorability ratings. They are way upside down and they have been for a while. How do you think the headlines around false selectors this week which happened after you were in the field plays to these favorable numbers?

Charles Franklin:
Well it’s hard to see it as a positive but Senator Johnson has been critical of the 2020 election for a good while. So at least as far as that goes this is new information or additional information, but it doesn’t dramatically change the way he’s seen as behaving on this. He’s viewed quite positively among Republicans but very negatively among Democrats. That means that among Democrats he can’t go down a lot more, independents could go down more. I think the question would be if coming out of the January 6th hearings there’s more direct evidence of his role and how voters see that. Especially in light of the January 6th hearings that are going on and who’s tuning into those and who’s ignoring those

Frederica Freyberg:
Governor Tony Evers’ job approval is right side up but nowhere near as high as it had been especially during the height of the pandemic, but the right track wrong track direction question that you had is something different.

Charles Franklin:
Yeah, he’s down a net of three points. He was six points more approved than disapproved two months ago, he’s three points more approved than disapproved now. He’s only been underwater on this question one time since he took office, that was last October, but the size of his net approval has varied from time to time. And right now it’s pretty, pretty tight with a net plus three. You know as the campaign starts and the advertising barrage starts in the fall, we’ll see how much he can sustain that approval. I will say that over his time in office, on average he’s done better on job approval than Governor Walker did in his two terms. But here we are getting into the campaign. Those national influences we talked about are going on and the campaign itself will also be a factor. And of course Governor Evers will argue his own positive case for what he’s done. So that could raise his approval just as the attacks could lower it.

Frederica Freyberg:
And lastly you polled on issues as well in this survey, including inflation which you found to be the number one issue of concern. So that doesn’t seem like a surprise.

Charles Franklin:
No, not at all, but it is so dominant as you see. 95% are either very concerned or somewhat concerned. The second highest issue is about 55% very concerned. So inflation really is just sort of becoming the environment. Everybody’s concerned about it, Republicans especially so. Democrats a little less. I think that reflects the power of party to shift how we view the economy rather than how we experience inflation. I’m pretty sure we’re all paying about the same price at the pump regardless of party.

Frederica Freyberg:
Yeah, absolutely. Alright Charles Franklin thank you. Thank you very much.

Charles Franklin:
Thank you.

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