A shift in MU Law School Poll: 50% of likely voters support Walker, 45% support Burke

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – A new Marquette Law School Poll in the Wisconsin governor’s race finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 50 percent of likely voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 45 percent support. Another 3 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while 1 percent say that they will vote for someone else. Likely voters are those who say they are certain to vote in the November election.

"This race has been tied inside the margin of error for four, almost five months now, and this is the first time we've seen any candidate with even a small, but meaningful advantage," Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin said.

Among registered voters, Walker receives 46 percent and Burke 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided and 1 percent saying they will vote for someone else.

The results for registered voters remain inside the margin of error.

In the previous Marquette poll, conducted Sept. 11-14, Walker held a 49-46 edge over Burke among likely voters and registered voters tied at 46 percent support for each candidate.

So why the shift? Walker has opened up a 13-point lead among independent voters -- a group he views as critical.

"For me to win in this election, I've got to get not only a strong showing of Republican leaning voters, I need to carry the vast majority of independent voters," Governor Walker said.

One explanation for Burke's slip in the poll is media coverage and TV ads hitting her on the "copied jobs plan" controversy. That has made 18 percent of voters say they're less likely to vote for her. Also, for the first time, more voters have an unfavorable opinion of her.

In a statement, Burke's campaign spokesman said: "Over the last two weeks Governor Walker has stepped up the mudslinging and false, negative attacks in a desperate attempt to distract from his failed record."

The poll asked about Walker's jobs record too -- specifically the labor report showing Wisconsin ranks 33rd in the nation. 26 percent say they're less likely to vote for him. Walker's favorability ratings, however, are even.

"I have no doubt that despite those recent stories, it will still be a close election," Walker said.

The poll interviewed 801 registered voters and 585 likely voters by landline and cell phone from Sept. 25 to 28. For the full sample of 801 registered voters, the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of 585 likely voters is +/- 4.1 percentage points.

In the race for attorney general, among likely voters, Republican Brad Schimel receives support from 41 percent and Democrat Susan Happ from 39 percent, with 19 percent saying that they are undecided or don’t know for whom they will vote. Among registered voters, Schimel receives 37 percent and Happ 37 percent, with 22 percent yet to choose a candidate. Both results are inside the margin of error for the poll.

A large gender gap is present in voting for both governor and attorney general. Among likely voters, Walker leads among men with 62 percent to 34 percent for Burke. Among women, Burke leads with 54 percent to Walker’s 40 percent. With registered voters, Walker leads among men 54-39 percent while Burke leads among women 50-40 percent.

"Right now, Walker's advantage among men is the advantage in the gener gap, rather than Burke's advantage among women," Franklin said.

With likely voters in the attorney general’s race, Schimel leads among males, with 49 percent to Happ’s 32 percent, while among females Happ leads, with 45 percent to Schimel’s 34 percent. For registered voters, Schimel leads among men by 44-33 percent while Happ leads among women 41-31 percent.

Walker wins 95 percent of Republican likely voters while Burke wins 94 percent of Democrats. Independents support Walker by 53 percent to Burke’s 40 percent.

Burke holds an edge among likely voters with family income below $40,000 with 53 percent to 43 percent for Walker. Those with family incomes between $40,000 and $75,000 lean to Walker over Burke by 50 percent to 46 percent. Among families with incomes over $75,000, Walker receives 53 percent to Burke’s 42 percent.

Regionally, Burke leads in the city of Milwaukee 69-24 percent and in the Madison media market 66-31 percent. Walker leads in the Milwaukee market outside the city by 62-32 and in the Green Bay market 52‑43. In the rest of the state, Walker leads 58-39 percent.

Photo ID for voting

Following a federal appeals court ruling in September permitting the state to enforce a law requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, poll respondents remain supportive of the requirement—though not all know that such an ID will be required in order to vote this November.

Sixty-three percent of registered voters favor requiring a photo ID while 33 percent are opposed. In the Marquette Law School Poll taken Sept. 11-14, just before the court ruling permitting the enforcement of the photo ID requirement, 61 percent favored and 35 percent opposed the requirement.

A fifth of registered voters have not learned that a photo ID will be required this November. Twenty percent say that voters will not have to show an ID, while 71 percent say that they will have to show an ID. Among likely voters, 18 percent think that no ID will be required while 75 percent say it will be.

Awareness of the ID requirement is highest among supporters of the requirement, with 76 percent of them knowing that an ID will be required this November while 17 percent think that it will not be. Among opponents, 65 percent know that a government-issued photo ID will be required this November while 26 percent think it will not.

Democrats are least likely to be aware of the requirement, with 65 percent aware and 27 percent not aware. Seventy-one percent of independents know that they will need an ID while 20 percent do not. Republicans are most aware of the ID requirement, with 79 percent aware and 15 percent not aware.

The youngest voters are less aware of the requirement, with 65 percent of 18-29 year olds aware of it and 26 percent not aware. Among those 30-44, 16 percent do not know of the need for an ID, while 20 percent of 45-59 year olds and 21 percent of those over 60 do not know.

Among likely voters, i.e., those certain that they will vote in November, 18 percent are unaware of the ID requirement. Among those who are registered but think that there is some chance they won’t vote, 25 percent are unaware that they will need an ID.

Twenty-one percent of men and 20 percent of women are unaware of the requirement.

Regional differences in awareness of the ID requirement are slight. Although sample sizes are small, 18 percent in both the city of Milwaukee and the suburban counties of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee are unaware of the requirement. The more rural parts of the state show a slightly higher (22 percent) rate of unawareness of the requirement. None of the regional differences are statistically significant.

Among registered voters, 1.3 percent say that they do not have a currently valid photo ID.

Burke jobs-plan copying and latest jobs report

Just over half of registered voters, 54 percent, say that they have read or heard about recent news reports that the Burke campaign copied parts of a jobs plan from the campaigns of other Democratic candidates, while 45 percent say that they have not heard of this story. A similar number (53 percent) say that they have read or heard about recent news reports that ranked Wisconsin 33rd of 50 states in job creation, while 46 percent say that they have not heard of this report.

The impact of these two news stories has differed slightly. Eighteen percent say that the Burke jobs plan story makes them less likely to vote for her, while 73 percent say that it makes no difference and 7 percent say that it makes them more likely to support her. For the story on ranking in jobs growth, 26 percent say that this makes them less likely to vote for Walker, 65 percent say that it makes no difference and 8 percent say that it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Sixty-three percent of Republicans say that they have heard of the Burke jobs plan story, while only 47 percent of Democrats say this. Fifty-four percent of independents have heard of the story. Conversely, Democrats are more likely to hear of the state’s job ranking, with 58 percent having heard of this story compared to 46 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents.

Partisan differences also appear in the reaction to the two stories. Thirty-three percent of Republicans say that the Burke story makes them less likely to support her, as do 16 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats. This reaction was reversed on the jobs ranking, with 45 percent of Democrats saying that this story makes them less likely to support Walker while 28 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans say this.


Perception of job growth in Wisconsin remains about evenly divided, with 45 percent saying the state is lagging behind other states, 38 percent saying the state is about keeping pace and 10 percent saying the state is adding jobs faster than others. This question was asked earlier in this survey (i.e., in the phone calls) than the item asking about awareness of the recent news report ranking job growth.

In mid-September, 42 percent said that Wisconsin was lagging behind other states in job creation, while 37 percent said about the same rate and thirteen percent said faster than other states. In August, 48 percent said Wisconsin was lagging, 34 percent said it was moving at the same rate as other states and 8 percent said it was creating jobs faster than other states.

Drug testing for unemployment and food stamps

Fifty-six percent of registered voters support drug testing for recipients of unemployment benefits and food stamps, while 41 percent think such testing would “be a waste of money with little impact.” Support for testing is strongest among Republican voters by a 78-20 percent margin, while independents support testing by 50-46 percent and a majority of Democrats oppose testing (40 percent in support and 55 percent in opposition).

Among young voters, age 18-29, opinion is evenly split 50-50, while those age 30-44 favor testing 53-44 percent, those age 45-59 favor it 59-39 and those age 60 and over support testing 59-34. A majority in some places opposes testing: in the city of Milwaukee 55 percent oppose and 44 percent favor, and in the Madison media market 56 percent oppose and 42 percent favor. In other regions of the state majorities support drug testing, with the Milwaukee media market outside the city favoring it 63-33, Green Bay 65‑32 and the rest of the state 56-41.

State budget

Forty-one percent of registered voters see the state budget as in better shape than a few years ago while 30 percent see it as in worse shape, with 23 percent saying about the same. In the poll taken two weeks ago, 41 percent said that the budget was in better shape than a few years ago, while 27 percent said worse shape and 25 percent said about the same. In January 2014, 49 percent said better, 20 percent said worse and 26 percent said the same shape. 

Direction of the state

Among registered voters, 54 percent say that the state is headed in the right direction while 43 percent say that the state is off on the wrong track. Earlier in the month 54 percent said right direction and 42 percent said wrong track.

Among registered voters, 48 percent approve of the way Walker is handling his job as governor while 49 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago 49 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved.

Images of the candidates

Burke is viewed favorably by 36 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 37 percent, while 26 percent say that they haven’t heard enough about her or don’t know how they feel. Two weeks ago her favorable rating was 36 percent, unfavorable was 35 percent, while 29 percent couldn’t say.

Walker is viewed favorably by 47 percent and unfavorably by 47 percent, with 6 percent not holding an opinion, compared to 49 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable in the previous poll, with 5 percent not holding an opinion.

Asked if “cares about people like you” describes Burke, 46 percent say it does while 38 percent say it does not and 15 percent say they don’t know. The previous poll found 48 percent saying “cares about you” described her while 34 percent said it did not and 17 percent said they didn’t know. For Walker, 44 percent say “cares about you” describes him, while 54 percent say it does not and 2 percent say they don’t know. In mid-September 47 percent said this described him while 50 percent said it did not and 3 percent lacked an opinion.

When it comes to being “able to get things done,” 40 percent say this describes Burke while 38 percent say it does not, with 21 percent saying they don’t know. Two weeks ago, 44 percent said this described her while 35 percent said it did not with 20 percent unable to say. For Walker, 62 percent say he is someone who is able to get things done while 36 percent disagree, with 2 percent unable to say. In mid‑September, 64 percent said he was someone able to get things done while 31 percent disagreed, with 5 percent unable to say.

Attorney general candidates and issues

The candidates for attorney general remain unknown to more than 8 in 10 voters. Eighty-five percent of registered voters say they haven’t heard enough of or don’t have an opinion of Brad Schimel, almost unchanged from 86 percent two weeks ago. Seventy-nine percent lack an opinion of Susan Happ, which is an increase from the 73 percent who said they didn’t have an opinion in mid-September.

Schimel is viewed favorably by 9 percent and unfavorably by 6 percent, compared to 8 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable two weeks ago. For Happ, 8 percent have a favorable view and 11 percent unfavorable, versus 12 percent favorable and 14 percent unfavorable in mid-September.

Registered voters continue to support an increase in the minimum wage, with 59 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed.

Sixty-one percent would like the state to accept increased federal support for expanding the Medicaid program to cover those just over the poverty line, while 27 percent say the state should reject that expansion. 

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive independent statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. Beginning in 2012, the poll has provided highly accurate estimates of election outcomes, in addition to gauging public opinion on a variety of major policy questions.

This poll interviewed 801 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, Sept. 25-28, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 585 likely voters. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 4.1 percentage points. The entire questionnaire, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at http://law.marquette.edu/poll.

Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki released the following statement in response to the latest Marquette University Law School poll numbers:

"That this race remains too close to call shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Over the last 2 weeks Governor Walker has stepped up the mudslinging and false, negative attacks in a desperate attempt to distract from his failed record. The fact is that Governor Walker's policies have left Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest in private sector job growth and facing a nearly $2 billion (and growing) budget shortfall. Wisconsin lost 4,300 jobs in August alone, underscoring how badly we need a new direction. That is exactly what Mary Burke is offering, based on her success in business and comprehensive plan to grow our economy and create jobs."

In response to the Marquette University Law School’s latest poll numbers, Schimel campaign manager Johnny Koremenos issued the following statement:

"As voters continue to pay more attention to this race, they are coming to the same conclusion the law enforcement community has: Brad Schimel is the right choice to put public safety ahead of politics. Brad Schimel is continuing his statewide, issues-based, bipartisan grassroots campaign. His opponent, Susan Happ, is ducking the public and the press, preferring instead to give access to the liberal special interest groups that like her plan to only defend the select state laws she favors. As Happ continues to dodge questions about her home sale and record in the courtroom, Brad Schimel is focusing on the issues that matter."

Happ campaign manager Josh Lease provided the following statement on the results of the Marquette University Law School Poll:

"This is going to be a real horse race, neck and neck to the finish line.  We didn't know the Republicans would throw so much mud on the track, but it does not appear to be working.  Voters are tired of the politics of negativity and character assassination.  In the next five weeks, as voters focus on the race, we're confident they will respond to Susan Happ's positive campaign and her commitment to put people first and get partisan politics out of the Attorney General's office."