Marquette Law School Poll: Nearly a dead heat between Gov. Walker, Mary Burke

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker receiving the support of 47.5 percent of registered voters and Democratic challenger Mary Burke receiving 44.1 percent support. Another 5.5 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while fewer than 1 percent say they will vote for someone else.

Among likely voters, defined as those who say they are certain to vote in November’s election, Burke receives 48.6 percent and Walker 46.5 percent, with 2.5 percent undecided and 0.6 percent saying they will vote for someone else.

The results for both registered and likely voters are within the poll’s margin of error. The August poll interviewed 815 registered voters by landline and cell phone August 21-24. The margin of error for the full sample of registered voters is +/- 3.5 percentage points. For the sample of 609 likely voters, the margin of error is +/- 4.1 percentage points.

These results are similar to the two most recent Marquette Law School Polls, which also showed the candidates within the margin of error. In July, Walker had 45.8 percent support, with Burke at 44.8 percent, among registered voters, while Burke had 46.8 percent to Walker’s 46.3 percent among likely voters. In May, Walker was supported by 46.1 percent and Burke by 45.7 percent among registered voters; among likely voters, Walker received 47.9 percent to Burke’s 45.2 percent.

The Marquette Law School Poll reports both registered voters and the somewhat smaller subset of likely voters.

“As pollsters, we try to measure both opinions and the likelihood that voters will act on their opinions by voting,” said Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy and director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “Some registered voters may cast a ballot who today are not certain that they will; on the other hand, even among people registered who say they are absolutely certain to vote, we know that a portion of them won't actually do so, for turnout on election day is invariably lower than the percentage who say they won't miss the chance. Still, the differences in involvement and enthusiasm about voting are enormous between the likely voters, who say they are certain to vote, and those who admit there is at least some chance they will stay home from the polls. The difference in vote between likely voters and all registered voters is a measure of the roles turnout and enthusiasm play in the election and tells us which party, at the moment, is enjoying greater intensity.”

In the race for attorney general, the vast majority of registered voters have yet to form opinions of the candidates. Seventy-three percent say they haven’t heard enough about Democrat Susan Happ to form an opinion, and an additional 9 percent say they don’t know if their opinion of her is favorable or unfavorable. For Republican Brad Schimel, 76 percent say they haven’t heard enough and another 11 percent say they don’t know if their opinion is favorable or not. Happ is seen favorably by 12 percent and unfavorably by 7 percent. Schimel is seen favorably by 8 percent and unfavorably by 5 percent.

When asked if they would vote for “Susan Happ, the Democrat, or Brad Schimel, the Republican,” for attorney general, 40 percent of registered voters would support Happ and 33 percent would support Schimel, with 24 percent saying they are undecided or don’t know how they will vote. Among likely voters, Happ receives the support of 42 percent and Schimel is supported by 32 percent, with 23 percent undecided or saying they don’t know how they will vote.

Jobs and personal finances

48 percent of registered voters say the state is lagging behind other states in job creation, while 34 percent say Wisconsin is adding jobs at about the same rate and 8 percent say it is adding jobs faster than other states. In July, 43 percent said the state was lagging, 42 percent said the same rate as other states and 9 percent said it was creating jobs faster than other states.

When limited to one of two choices, 73 percent think that outsourcing, “meaning when American businesses move manufacturing to other parts of the world in order to save money,” reduces jobs and wages of American workers, while 20 percent think outsourcing is “necessary for American companies to remain competitive.”

Asked if “Wisconsin government can provide economic incentives that would persuade companies not to outsource work overseas,” 55 percent believe that such incentives can persuade companies not to outsource, while 38 percent say that “business pressures leave companies little choice” but to outsource.

When asked, “All things considered, who as governor do you think would be best at helping the state create jobs?,” 45 percent say Mary Burke and 45 percent say Scott Walker.

24 percent say the recession had a major effect on their finances and that they have not yet recovered, while 33 percent say they suffered a major impact but have mostly recovered. Forty-two percent say the recession did not have a major effect on their personal finances.

Direction of the state

Among registered voters, 54 percent say the state is headed in the right direction while 42 percent say the state is off on the wrong track. Forty-five percent say the state’s budget is in better shape than a few years ago, with 26 percent saying about the same shape and 22 percent say the budget is in worse shape now. And 51 percent say that, “thinking about all the changes in state government over the past four years,” the state is better off in the long run, while 43 percent say the state is worse off.

Registered voters split in their view of how Walker is handling his job as governor, with 47 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. Five percent say they don’t have an opinion.


63 percent favor requiring photo identification to be shown in order to vote while 32 percent oppose that.

Opinion is more evenly split on Act 10, the legislation that largely eliminated collective bargaining for public sector workers. Forty-four percent would like to see collective bargaining returned to what it was before Act 10 was passed, while 46 percent would keep the law as it is now.

58 percent believe Wisconsin should accept federal funds to expand the Medicaid, or Badgercare, program for those whose incomes are as high as 133 percent of the poverty line. Twenty-nine percent say the state should reject the Medicaid expansion.

49 percent say the governor should approve a proposed new casino in Kenosha, while 35 percent say the governor should reject that proposal. Support is strongest in the Milwaukee media market, which includes Kenosha, with 60 percent support and 24 percent opposition. In the city of Milwaukee, support stands at 60 percent with 29 percent opposition. In the Green Bay media market, 47 percent support that proposal, with 41 percent opposed. Opposition is strongest in the Madison market, with 43 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor. The rest of the state is evenly split, with 40 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor.

Campaign finance disclosure

More than three-quarters of voters think political ads should disclose the source of the money paying for those ads. Voters were asked if they thought groups airing political ads during elections should be required to list their top donors as part of the ad. Seventy-six percent said groups should have to list their top donors while 21 percent said they should not. When the question is phrased to focus on “out of state groups” instead of simply “groups” airing ads, support for including a list of donors rose to 83 percent while opposition declined to 14 percent. These items were asked of random half-samples of respondents and each had a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points.

Trek Bicycle

Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle, the company founded by Mary Burke’s father, is viewed favorably by 32 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 9 percent. A substantial 46 percent haven’t heard enough and an additional 11 percent lack an opinion of the company. While Democrats, Republicans and independents are about equally aware of the company, 16 percent of Republicans now hold an unfavorable view of Trek, compared to 8 percent of independents and 2 percent of Democrats. Twenty-three percent of Republicans have a positive view, as do 36 percent of independents and 39 percent of Democrats.


Voters have an unfavorable view of the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare,” by a 53 percent to 36 percent favorable margin. When last asked in March 2014, 50 percent had an unfavorable view and 39 percent had a favorable view of the federal law.

A majority, 57 percent, support increasing the minimum wage, while 36 percent oppose an increase.

59 percent say tax cuts do more for the wealthy, 22 percent say they do more for the middle class and 8 percent say tax cuts do more for the poor.

Common core

Despite recent debates about the “common core” standards for schools, 26 percent say they have heard nothing at all about them, and another 14 percent say they have only heard the name. In January, 36 percent had head nothing and 10 percent had heard only the name.

In August, 28 percent say they have heard quite a bit about common core, up from 20 percent in January, and 32 percent say they have heard “some,” compared to 34 percent in January.

Among those who have at least heard of the “common core,” 7 percent have a very favorable and 43 percent a favorable opinion, while 22 percent an unfavorable and 12 percent a very unfavorable opinion. In January, 5 percent were very favorable, 45 percent favorable, 26 percent unfavorable and 8 percent very unfavorable.

Among Republicans, 41 percent have a favorable or very favorable opinion while 41 percent have an unfavorable or very unfavorable view. Among independents, 47 percent come in at favorable or very favorable and 39 percent at unfavorable or very unfavorable. Democrats divide 65 percent favorable and 22 percent unfavorable.

Gender and the vote

Among registered voters, women support Burke over Walker by a 49-42 percent margin, while men favor Walker 54 to 39 percent. Among likely voters, women support Burke by 56 percent to 38 percent for Walker, while men favor Walker 57 percent to 40 percent for Burke.

In the attorney general’s race, among registered voters, women favor Happ by 44 percent to 26 percent for Schimel, with 27 percent undecided or saying they don’t know how they will vote; 40 percent of men favor Schimel and 34 percent favor Happ, with 21 percent saying they are undecided or don’t know. Among likely voters, 48 percent of women support Happ while 25 percent support Schimel, with 25 percent undecided or saying they don’t know how they would vote, while Schimel is supported by 40 percent of men to 36 percent for Happ, with 21 percent undecided or saying they don’t know.

Personal perceptions

Burke has become better known to voters since July, although 35 percent still say they haven’t heard enough about her or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of her. In July, that number was 49 percent.

Burke receives ratings in August of 33 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable, compared to July’s 26 percent favorable and 24 percent unfavorable.

Only 4 percent of voters did not give a rating for Walker. He is seen favorably by 48 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent. In July, 45 percent had a favorable view and 47 percent unfavorable.

Voters were asked if the phrase “cares about people like you” describes Walker and Burke. Forty-five percent say that “cares about people like you” describes Walker, while 50 percent say that that does not describe him and 4 percent say that they do not know. For Burke, 43 percent say that the phrase describes her, while 35 percent say that it does not and 21 percent are not able to say if this describes her. Those results are little different from July, when 45 percent said “cares about you” described Walker and 49 percent said it did not, and 38 percent said it described Burke while 31 percent said it did not.

When asked if “able to get things done” describes Walker, 68 percent say it does, while 28 percent say it does not, with 3 percent unable to say. For Burke, 43 percent say “able to get things done” describes her, while 32 percent say it does not and 24 percent were unable to say. In the July results, Walker was seen as able to get things done by 66 percent, with 29 percent saying “no” for him, while Burke got responses of 36 percent “yes” to 28 percent “no.” In July, 4 percent did not know if this described Walker and 35 percent did not know if it described Burke.

Voter involvement

75 percent of respondents say they are absolutely certain to vote in November, up from 68 percent in the July poll. Excitement about the election remains unchanged, with 53 percent describing themselves as “very excited” about voting, compared to 54 percent in July.

77 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats say they are absolutely certain to vote this fall, while 68 percent of independents say this. When asked how enthusiastic they are about voting in November, 59 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents say “very enthusiastic.”

Republicans make up 27 percent of registered voters in the August sample, Democrats 31 percent and independents 38 percent, while among the likely voter sample Republicans are 28 percent, Democrats 34 percent and independents 34 percent. The long-term average for 19,402 registered voters included in 23 Marquette Law School polls since the start of 2012 is 27 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat and 38 percent independent. For likely voters, the long-term average is 29 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat and 36 percent independent.

In July, Republicans were 24 percent of registered voters and 25 percent of likely voters. Democrats were 30 percent of registered voters and 32 percent of likely voters. Independents were 41 percent of registered voters and 38 percent of likely voters.

Comparing likely and less-likely voters

Likely voters, those saying they are certain to vote in November, are quite different in their political involvement from voters who say they are less than certain to vote.

Among likely voters, 69 percent say they follow politics “most of the time,” while only 27 percent of less likely voters say the same. A full 66 percent of likely voters say they are very enthusiastic about voting, but only 14 percent of less likely voters say the same. Among likely voters, 26 percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Mary Burke, while among less likely voters 61 percent did not have an opinion. For Scott Walker, 3 percent of likely voters and 8 percent of less likely voters failed to have an opinion. Among likely voters, 20 percent lacked an opinion of the Tea Party but 46 percent of less likely voters did not know enough about the Tea Party to express an opinion.

Less likely voters are not consistently more liberal or conservative in their views of specific policy issues compared to likely voters. Less likely voters are a bit more unfavorable toward the federal health care law than are likely voters (57 percent to 52 percent), but a bit more in favor of the state’s accepting federal funding to expand Medicaid (61 percent to 57 percent). Less likely voters are more supportive of approving a casino in Kenosha (56 percent to 47 percent). And less likely voters are more supportive of raising the minimum wage (64 percent) than are likely voters (54 percent).

Less likely voters are much more inclined to say the state is headed in the right direction than are likely voters (64 percent to 50 percent), but show no difference in approval of Walker’s handing of his job as governor (47 percent approval for both groups). Less likely voters are more undecided about their choice for governor (14 percent vs. 2 percent among likely voters). But among the less likely, Walker is supported by 50 percent and Burke by 31 percent. Burke holds a 2.1 percentage point advantage among likely voters.

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 815 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, August 21-24, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 609 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

Following the release of the latest Marquette Law School Poll, which shows Mary Burke expanding her lead over Scott Walker among likely voters to 49-47, Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki released the following statement:

"Wisconsin voters know we need a new direction, and are responding enthusiastically to Mary’s comprehensive plan, based on her success in business, to create more good paying jobs. Under Scott Walker Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest, tenth out of ten in private sector job creation, so today’s poll should come as no surprise. Voters want leadership focused on common sense solutions and are rejecting Walker's politics first approach. No doubt Governor Walker and his big money special interest allies will launch even more desperate, false attacks on Mary Burke as he continues to fade in the polls, but Wisconsin voters know negative ads won't lift Wisconsin out of dead last in Midwest job creation, only real plans and a real track record of creating jobs will."

In response to the Marquette University Law School’s Latest Poll numbers, Schimel Campaign Manager Johnny Koremenos issued the following statement:

“This is what we expected.  Susan Happ gets a bump from spending a lot on television, (we spent none) and her fawning post primary press coverage. However the law-enforcement professionals in Wisconsin who know the candidates best are overwhelmingly supporting Brad Schimel. Even her fellow elected Democratic DAs and sheriffs are backing Brad Schimel because they know he will put public safety ahead of politics,” said Koremenos. “As voters now begin to compare the two candidates we are confident they will come to the same conclusion. Brad Schimel's track record will win the support of the majority of Wisconsin's voters in November. Susan Happ is too lenient and too liberal. Brad Schimel, law enforcement's choice for Attorney General, shares Wisconsin values --that's what the next 2 1/2 months will show."

Susan Happ’s campaign for Attorney General of Wisconsin released the following statement in response to the new Marquette University Law School poll showing her leading her opponent 42-32 among likely voters.

“Wisconsin voters are ready for an attorney general who puts the people's interest ahead of partisan politics, and that's what Susan Happ represents,” said campaign spokesman Joshua Lease. “Voters across the state are responding to her record as a tough prosecutor who works across party lines to get the job done. Susan Happ will be an independent voice who protects out rights as well as our safety.  The more people get to know her and her record, the better she'll do.”