Marquette Law School poll shows Gov. Walker, Mary Burke in a "dead tie"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke tied in the Wisconsin governor’s race, with 47 percent of likely voters supporting each candidate. Another 4 percent say that they are undecided or that they do not know whom they will support, while fewer than 1 percent say that they will vote for someone else. Likely voters are those who say that they are certain to vote in the November election.

Among registered voters, Walker receives 48 percent and Burke 45 percent, with 5 percent undecided and fewer than 1 percent saying that they will vote for someone else.

In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, conducted Sept. 25-28, Walker held a 50-45 edge over Burke among likely voters, while 46 percent of registered voters supported Walker to Burke’s 45 percent support.

The poll interviewed 1,004 registered voters and 803 likely voters by landline and cell phone Oct. 9-12. For the full sample of 1,004 registered voters, the margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of 803 likely voters is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

In the race for attorney general, among likely voters, Republican Brad Schimel and Democrat Susan Happ each receive support from 42 percent, with 16 percent saying that they are undecided or don’t know for whom they will vote. Among registered voters, both candidates receive 39 percent support, with 19 percent yet to choose a candidate.

Demographic differences

Among likely voters who think of themselves as independents, Burke receives 45 percent support to Walker’s 44 percent. In the Sept. 25-28 poll, independents supported Walker by 53 percent to Burke’s 40 percent. Partisan voters remain loyal to their parties, with Walker winning 96 percent of Republican likely voters and Burke winning 94 percent of Democrats, barely changed over the past two weeks. Just 4 percent of Republicans are crossing over to vote for Burke while 3 percent of Democrats are voting for Walker.

Regionally, Burke leads in the City of Milwaukee (76-21 percent) and in the Madison media market (59-32). Walker leads in the Milwaukee market outside the city (53-40) and in the Green Bay market (58‑39). In the rest of the state, Walker leads 51-46 percent.

The gender gap, which was exceptionally strong in the previous poll, has all but vanished in this poll. Among likely voters, men favor Walker by a 48-46 percentage-point margin while women favor Burke 48-47. Among all registered voters, men prefer Walker 49-43 and women are evenly split at 47 percent for each candidate. Since July, Walker’s advantage among men has varied between 11 and 28 percentage points, while Burke’s advantage among women has ranged from 6 to 18 percentage points.

In the 2012 U.S. Senate race between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson, the gender gap among likely voters also showed substantial variation, with Baldwin’s advantage among women ranging from 2 to 16 points, while men favored Thompson by as much as 19 points and in one poll preferred Baldwin by 2.

Photo ID for voting

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court order issued late on Thursday, Oct. 9, whose effect is to block Wisconsin’s photo ID law for this election, public awareness of what is required to vote shifted rapidly over the four-day period of the poll.

Among likely voters, 82 percent of respondents interviewed on Thursday said that an ID would be required to vote, while 13 percent said it would not and 5 percent said they didn’t know. News of the change in policy spread rapidly after the Thursday evening decision. Among likely voters interviewed Friday through Sunday, 68 percent correctly said no ID would be required, while 26 percent still thought one would be and 6 percent said they didn’t know.

Voters also rapidly learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had entered an order on the issue. Among respondents interviewed Friday through Sunday, 67 percent said they knew the Supreme Court had issued an order while 20 percent believed it had not and 13 percent said they didn’t know.

Fifty-eight percent of likely voters in the poll support requiring a government-issued photo ID in order to vote while 39 percent oppose the requirement.

Gubernatorial debate

Friday night’s gubernatorial debate occurred too late to include most respondents interviewed for this poll. Of the 276 registered voters interviewed Saturday and Sunday, 28 percent say they watched or listened to the debate and an additional 20 percent say they read or heard about the debate afterward.

Among those who watched or read about the debate, 42 percent say Walker did better while 34 percent say Burke did better, 10 percent call it a tie and 12 percent say they don’t know who did better. This is a small sample of those exposed to the debate, with 131 respondents and a margin of error of +/- 8.7 percentage points, making the difference of opinion less than the margin of error. In the still-smaller likely-voter sample of those exposed to the debate, 43 percent think Walker did better, 33 percent say Burke did better, 12 say it was a tie, and 11 say they do not know. For that sample of 119 respondents, the margin of error is +/- 9.2 percentage points.

Images of the candidates

Burke is viewed favorably by 44 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 44 percent, while 11 percent say that they haven’t heard enough about her or don’t know how they feel. Two weeks ago her favorable rating was 40 percent and unfavorable was 44 percent, while 16 percent couldn’t say.

Walker is viewed favorably by 50 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 48 percent, with 1 percent not holding an opinion. That compares to 52 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable in the previous poll, with 3 percent not holding an opinion.

Asked if “cares about people like you” describes Burke, 52 percent of likely voters say it does while 37 percent say it does not and 10 percent say they don’t know. The previous poll found 49 percent saying “cares about you” described her while 41 percent said it did not and 9 percent said they didn’t know. For Walker, 48 percent of likely voters say “cares about you” describes him, while 50 percent say it does not and 2 percent say they don’t know. In late September, 48 percent said this described him while 49 percent said it did not and 2 percent lacked an opinion.

When it comes to being “able to get things done,” 46 percent say this describes Burke while 39 percent say it does not, with 15 percent saying they don’t know. Two weeks ago, 42 percent said this described her while 40 percent said it did not, with 17 percent unable to say. For Walker, 67 percent say he is someone who is able to get things done while 30 percent disagree, with 2 percent unable to say. In late September, 63 percent said he was someone able to get things done while 35 percent disagreed, with 2 percent unable to say. All figures are for likely voters.

Voter involvement and participation

Partisans of both parties remain highly likely to vote, with 82 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats saying they are certain they will vote in November. That is up slightly from 80 and 77 percent, respectively, two weeks ago.

Independents have moved sharply up in their reported likelihood of voting, with 80 percent saying they are certain they will vote, up from 67 percent two weeks ago. Independents usually trail partisans in turnout.

All party groups increased their reported enthusiasm for voting over the past two weeks, with 70 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents saying they are “very enthusiastic” about voting this November. In the late-September poll, 58 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Democrats, and 44 percent of independents said they were very enthusiastic.

Voters report varying levels of personal political activity. Among all registered voters, 40 percent say they have tried to persuade someone to vote for or against a candidate in the last three months, 15 percent report having put up a yard sign or bumper sticker and 15 percent say they have contributed money to a candidate or party.

Thirty-five percent say they talk to family and friends about politics more than once a week and another 22 percent say they do so once a week; another 17 percent say they talk once or twice a month while 15 percent say a few times a year. Ten percent say they never talk about politics with family and friends.

Talking to co-workers about politics is less common, with 16 percent of those polled saying they do so more than once a week, 16 percent once a week, 14 percent once or twice a month, and 12 percent a few times a year. Forty-one percent say they never talk about politics with co-workers.

The potential downside of political conversation is seen in the 27 percent who say there is someone with whom they’ve stopped talking about politics due to disagreements over the governor’s race. In May 2012, two weeks before the recall, 34 percent said they had stopped talking with someone about politics.

Voters are also on the receiving end of party contacts. Sixty percent of registered voters say they have been contacted by a party or candidate since July 1, and 40 percent say they have been contacted in the last week. Of those contacted, 14 percent say they were contacted only by Democrats, 29 percent only by Republicans and 53 percent by both parties.


Among likely voters, 50 percent say the state is lagging behind other states in job creation, 37 percent say the state is keeping pace and 10 percent say the state is adding jobs faster than other states. In late September, 43 percent said that Wisconsin was lagging behind other states in job creation, while 38 percent said that the state was adding jobs about the same rate as other states and 12 percent said faster than other states.

State budget

Forty-five percent of likely voters see the state budget as in better shape than a few years ago, while 28 percent see it as in worse shape, with 24 percent saying it is about the same. In the poll taken two weeks ago, 46 percent said that the budget was in better shape than a few years ago, while 31 percent said worse shape and 18 percent said about the same. 

Direction of the state

Among likely voters, 53 percent say that the state is headed in the right direction while 43 percent say that the state is off on the wrong track. In the previous poll, 56 percent said right direction and 42 percent said wrong track.

Among likely voters, 50 percent approve of the way Walker is handling his job as governor while 48 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago 52 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Attorney general candidates and issues

The candidates for attorney general are only gradually becoming better known to voters. Seventy-four percent of likely voters say they haven’t heard enough of or don’t have an opinion of Brad Schimel, down slightly from 80 percent two weeks ago. Seventy-two percent lack an opinion of Susan Happ, barely changed from the 75 percent who said they didn’t have an opinion in late September. Almost all interviews were completed before the Sunday afternoon debate, televised statewide from Marquette Law School, between Schimel and Happ.

Schimel is viewed favorably by 15 percent and unfavorably by 10 percent, compared to 12 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable two weeks ago. For Happ, 14 percent have a favorable view and 14 percent unfavorable, versus 11 percent favorable and 13 percent unfavorable in late-September.

Same-sex marriage and other issues

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Oct. 6 effectively allowing same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and several other states, 63 percent of likely voters support legalizing marriage of gay and lesbian couples while 30 percent are opposed. In May, 53 percent of likely voters supported same-sex marriage while 40 percent opposed it.

Likely voters continue to support an increase in the minimum wage, with 61 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

Fifty-nine percent of likely voters would like the state to accept increased federal support for expanding the Medicaid program to cover those just over the poverty line, while 30 percent say the state should reject that expansion.

Twenty-five percent of likely voters say they would like to see Scott Walker run for president in 2016 while 40 percent would like to see Rep. Paul Ryan run. Among Republicans, 49 percent would like Walker to run while 44 percent would not. Twenty-two percent of independents would like him to run, with 72 percent opposed. Just 5 percent of Democrats favor a Walker run, with 92 percent opposed. For Ryan, 69 percent of Republicans favor a presidential bid with 23 percent opposed. Thirty-eight percent of independents support a Ryan run, with 53 percent opposed, and 15 percent of Democrats favor a Ryan presidential effort, with 78 percent opposed.

Party composition of the sample

In this particular poll, Republicans make up 28 percent of the registered voter sample and 29 percent of the likely voter sample, with Democrats at 31 percent of both registered and likely voters. Independents are 37 percent of both registered and likely voters.

Over all Marquette Law School Polls conducted in 2014, Republicans have averaged 26 percent of registered and 28 percent of likely voters, while Democrats have averaged 30 percent in both registered and likely voter samples. Independents have averaged 40 percent of registered and 38 percent of likely voters. In the poll conducted Sept. 25-28, Republicans were 28 percent of registered and 31 percent of likely voters while Democrats were 28 percent of registered and 30 percent of likely voters. Independents were 40 percent of registered and 37 percent of likely voters in September.

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 1,004 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, Oct. 9-12, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 803 likely voters. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 3.5 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, Mary Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki released the following statement:

"Today's poll confirms that this race is too close to call. In the final three weeks voters face a clear choice. A new direction with Mary Burke where everyone willing to put in the hard work gets a fair shot. Or to continue on the failed path Gov. Walker has us on - which puts those at the top and special interests ahead of you. That approach has left us dead last in Midwest job creation, lagging on income, and facing a ballooning $1.8 billion budget shortfall. Gov. Walker says "we don't have a jobs problem" - but Wisconsin voters know we do, and are ready for a new direction."

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

"Brad Schimel is not hiding, he's continuing to meet with voters across Wisconsin to share his plans to improve public safety in Wisconsin. As this race continues to come into focus, we're confident voters are making the determination that Brad Schimel is not only law enforcement's choice, but their choice to be the state's top cop. Susan Happ is a lenient activist who is not ready to lead the Wisconsin Department of Justice."

Susan Happ campaign manager, Josh Lease provided the following statement regarding the October 15th Marquette University Law School Poll:

"We’ve been saying for months that Wisconsin is very politically divided, and we have always expected this race to be close. Fortunately, Susan Happ has a proven track record of bringing people together and is the only candidate in the race with a record of earning votes from across the political spectrum. As voters continue to hear her positive message, her support will continue to grow.”