Marquette Law School poll: Dems edge President Trump in potential 2020 matches

MILWAUKEE -- A new Marquette Law School poll was released on Wednesday, Sept. 4 and finds 51 percent support for Joe Biden and 42 support for President Donald Trump in a potential 2020 match.

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The poll says in a match between President Trump and Bernie Sanders, it's Sanders 48 percent, President Trump 44 percent. The rest support neither or don't know.

In a match between President Trump and Elizabeth Warren, each is supported by 45 percent with the rest supporting neither or don't know.  In a match between President Trump and Kamala Harris, each is supported by 44 percent.

The poll shows Biden received the most support among Democratic presidential candidates in this poll of Wisconsin registered voters. Among Democrats, Democratic-leaners and independents with no leaning, Biden is first choice of 28 percent and second choice of 18 percent. Sanders is the first choice of 20 percent, second choice of 13 percent. Warren is the first choice of 17 percent, second choice of 20 percent.

"What I think is an open question going forward is; how do independents swing as we go through the year -- and as events, whatever those events may be, push the president into whatever position that may be, a better or worse position," said poll director Charles Franklin.

Economic outlook and issues

Wisconsin registered voters hold a net positive view of the performance of the economy over the past 12 months, with 37 percent saying the economy has improved over the past year, 25 percent saying it has worsened, and 34 percent saying it has stayed the same.

By contrast, the outlook for the next year is not net positive, with 26 percent saying the economy will improve, while 37 percent think it will get worse and 33 percent saying the economy will remain the same.

The outlook for the coming year among those polled in 2019 is less favorable than among those polled in 2018 as more respondents now see the prospect of a worsening economy. The August poll is the second in 2019 that has seen net pessimism about the economic outlook. The previous net negative reading was in January 2019, during the federal government shutdown.

In 2018, the average future outlook was 14.7 percent net positive, while in 2019 the average outlook has been net negative -3 percent.

Forty-five percent approve of the job President Trump is doing, with 53 percent disapproving. That is little changed from April when 46 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved.

Forty-nine percent of those polled approve of President Trump’s handling of the economy, while 50 percent disapprove.

Partisanship strongly affects views of both the economy and President Trump’s handling of it. In Table 5, 41 percent of Republican and independents who lean Republican think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 42 percent think it will stay the same and 12 percent think it will worsen.

In contrast, among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, 12 percent think the economy will improve, 23 percent think it will remain the same, and 63 percent think the economy will worsen.

Twenty-one percent of independents who do not lean to a party expect the economy to improve, 37 percent think it will stay the same and 33 percent expect an economic downturn.

Tariffs on Chinese imports were raised on Sept. 1, after the poll was completed, although the tariff increase was announced by President Trump on Twitter on Aug. 23 before interviews began on Aug. 25. Respondents were asked if imposing tariffs or fees on products imported from other countries helps the U.S. economy, hurts the economy or doesn’t make much of a difference either way. Thirty percent say tariffs help the economy, 46 percent say they hurt the economy, and 17 percent say tariffs don’t make much difference either way.

Gun legislation and opinion

This poll was completed after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 and in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, but before the mass shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas, on Aug. 31. Opinion on potential changes to gun laws has changed little from previous polling on gun issues.

Households with guns are only a little less supportive of background checks than those without a gun. Seventy-five percent of respondents from households with a gun support background checks, while 88 percent of those without a gun do so. Those who refuse to say if there is a gun in the household are more opposed to background checks. Six percent of respondents refused to say if there was a gun in the household.

“Red-flag” laws that would allow police to take away guns from people who have been found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others are supported by 81 percent and opposed by 12 percent. Eighty-one percent of respondents in households with a gun support such red-flag laws as do 86 percent of those without a gun in the household. Those refusing to say if there is a gun in the household are less supportive of red-flag laws, as shown in Table 10. This question has not been asked before in the Marquette Law School Poll.

Support for a ban on “assault-style weapons” is lower than support for background checks or red-flag laws. Table 11 shows the trend in support or opposition to a ban on assault-style weapons, and Table 12 shows the views of residents in households with or without a gun.

Feelings toward the National Rifle Association (NRA) were measured on a 100-point “feeling thermometer” where 100 means very warm or favorable feelings, zero means very cold or unfavorable feelings, while a score of 50 means neither favorable nor unfavorable feelings. Respondents can assign any score between 0 and 100.

Overall, the average score for the NRA was 50.2.

Average feelings toward the NRA are shown in Table 13 for men and women in urban, suburban and rural areas.

The average rating of the NRA is the approximately the same for urban and suburban men, and several points higher among rural men. Women in urban areas are about 10 points less favorable to the NRA than are urban men. Suburban women are 12 points less favorable than suburban men. Women in rural areas, however, are equally favorable to the NRA as are rural men.

Views of a diverse society and immigrants

Sixty-five percent of respondents think an increasingly diverse population of different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live. Four percent think this makes the U.S. a worse place, and 27 percent think it doesn’t make much difference. When last asked in October 2016, 53 percent said an increasingly diverse population made the U.S. better, 9 percent said it made the country worse, and 35 percent said it made little difference.

Asked to rate immigrants on the 0-to-100 point “feeling thermometer,” the average score given to “legal immigrants” was 78.8, while the average rating for “illegal immigrants” was 42.5.

The average thermometer score given to “Muslims” was 63.1, while that given to “evangelical Christians” was 58.6. Muslims were rated on average between 59 and 68 on the “feeling thermometer” by each of four religious groups, while evangelicals were rated over 75 by evangelicals, but at 33 by those without a religion. Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic respondents gave evangelical Christians similar 59 and 61 average ratings respectively.

Views of racial disparity

A majority of respondents, 53 percent, agree that there is a lot of discrimination against blacks in the U.S., while 45 percent disagree.

A larger majority, 62 percent, disagree with a statement that racial disparities are only a matter of effort and that “if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.” Thirty percent agree with a statement that black disadvantage is a matter of effort.

A minority, 41 percent, agree with a statement that blacks have gotten less than they deserve over the past few years, with 51 percent disagreeing with that statement.

A majority of respondents, 58 percent, say that Hispanic people have the same chance of getting ahead as people from most other ethnic backgrounds. Twenty-seven percent say Hispanic people have a worse chance of getting ahead, and 10 percent say they have a better chance.

Water-quality issues

Forty-three percent of respondents say they are very or somewhat concerned about the safety of their community’s water supply, while 57 percent say they are not too concerned or not at all concerned.

Fifty-two percent say the state of Wisconsin is doing an excellent or good job protecting the safety of public drinking water, while 39 percent say the state is doing a fair or poor job.

A substantial majority of respondents, 74 percent, say the state should provide financial support for replacing lead pipes between water mains and residences because of the health risks posed by lead pipes. Sixteen percent say this cost should be paid entirely by the owner of the residence.

Opinion of the governor and legislature

Governor Tony Evers’ job approval stands at 54 percent, with disapproval at 34 percent. Ten percent say they don’t have an opinion. In April, 47 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved, and 15 percent lacked an opinion.

Approval of the job the Wisconsin legislature is doing is 52 percent and disapproval is 38 percent, with 8 percent saying they don’t know. In April, 50 percent approved, 38 percent disapproved, and 11 percent lacked an opinion.

State of the state

Fifty-five percent of respondents say the state is headed in the right direction, while 37 percent say it is off on the wrong track. In April, 52 percent said the state was going in the right direction and 40 percent said it was on the wrong track.

This latest poll was based on 800 interviews with Wisconsin registered voters between Aug. 25 and Aug. 29. The margin of error involving the full sample is +/- 3.9 percentage points.