New MU poll shows Ryan, Clinton are top 2016 pres. nominees

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A new Marquette Law School Poll finds U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan leading the field in his home state for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, with support from 27 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters and independents who lean Republican. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has the support of 21 percent, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is third with 16 percent support. Other potential candidates include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 11 percent, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 7 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 5 percent and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at 1 percent. Twelve percent said they didn’t know or preferred someone else.

On the Democratic side in Wisconsin, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the choice of 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, while Vice President Joe Biden is the choice of 13 percent. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has 5 percent support, followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 4 percent, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick with 2 percent and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner with 1 percent each.

In an early look at the 2016 general election matchups in the state, Clinton leads all potential nominees, with the closest contest between Clinton (48%) and Ryan (44%). Clinton leads Christie 46 to 40 percent, and she is ahead of Walker 50 to 42 percent. Her lead expands against Paul, 51 to 37 percent, and against Rubio, 51 to 35 percent.

Walker’s job as governor

Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval stands at 51 percent while disapproval is 45 percent. In March, Walker’s approval was 50 percent with 44 percent disapproval. Voters have begun to be a bit more optimistic about the economy, with 39 percent thinking that it will get better over the next year, 20 percent that it will get worse and 37 percent that it will stay about the same. In March, 33 percent expected a better economy, while 26 percent said they thought it would worsen and 38 percent said it would stay the same.

Wisconsin voters are less positive about jobs in the state, with 49 percent saying Wisconsin is lagging behind other states in creating jobs. Just 9 percent said Wisconsin was creating jobs faster than other states, with 35 percent saying Wisconsin was creating jobs at the same rate as other states.

Perceptions of job growth are strongly affected by partisanship. Just 26 percent of Republicans but 47 percent of independents see Wisconsin lagging behind other states in job creation. Fully 70 percent of Democrats say that Wisconsin trails other states.

Perceptions of job growth also affect evaluations of Gov. Walker. Among Republicans who see job creation either leading or keeping pace with other states, Walker’s job approval rating is more than 96 percent. But that falls to 76 percent among Republicans who see the state lagging behind. Among independents who see Wisconsin as keeping pace or doing better, 75 percent approve of Walker’s job performance. But among independents who see the state lagging, approval falls to 38 percent. Among the 30 percent of Democrats who see a more positive jobs picture, 24 percent approve of Walker’s job performance, but among the 70 percent who see the state lagging behind, approval is 6 percent.

Voucher school expansion

Opinion on the role of publicly funded vouchers for private schools remains divided. Thirty-two percent favor expanding the voucher program statewide, while an additional 16 percent support expansion to larger school districts only. Fifteen percent oppose any expansion beyond Milwaukee and Racine, which have voucher programs now, and an additional 29 percent want to end the voucher program entirely. In March, the numbers were similar, with 37 percent favoring statewide expansion and 14 percent supporting expansion in large districts only, while 14 percent opposed expansion and 28 percent preferred ending the voucher program.

Support for increased funding for public schools remains high with 67 percent favoring an increase of 1.5 percent or more for public school operations. Twenty-two percent would hold spending constant, while 7 percent would prefer a reduction in spending on public schools. In March, 72 percent favored an increase of some level while 25 percent supported a freeze or a cut in state support.

The public remains divided on how to pay for desired increases in support for public schools. Asked which was more important to them, 49 percent said reducing property taxes while 46 percent said increasing spending on public schools. Opinion was about the same among parents of school-age children, with 48 percent saying property tax reduction was more important and 50 percent saying increasing spending on schools was more important. Among voters without school-age children, 49 percent said tax reduction was more important while 45 percent said increased spending was more important.

Budget items

The public remains skeptical of increased borrowing for highway projects. Asked if they were willing to see the state borrow money to pay for highway projects, 24 percent were willing and 72 percent unwilling. Voters, however, were also unwilling to see increases in gas taxes and vehicle registration fees as a means of paying for highway work, with 27 percent willing and 71 percent unwilling. Delaying planned projects as a means of saving money was supported by 52 percent and opposed by 44 percent. Those results are virtually identical to the same questions in the March poll. Asked specifically in a subsequent question if they would support borrowing $994 million for road construction, 23 percent supported the proposed bonding while 73 percent opposed it.

Fifty-five percent said they favored a proposed $330 million dollar tax cut with 36 percent opposed.

UW funding

In the wake of controversy over the level of reserve funds held across the University of Wisconsin system, support is strong for a proposed two-year tuition freeze, with 76 percent in favor and 21 percent opposed. However, views on cutting state support for the UW system are divided. Forty-four percent support reducing the proposed $181 million in additional state support for the UW system, but slightly more, 50 percent, favor maintaining that level of additional support.

Background checks for gun sales

Following the U.S. Senate vote against a bill expanding background checks on gun sales, 72 percent say they support background checks on private sales of guns and at gun shows, while 26 percent oppose such background checks. In March, before the Senate vote, 81 percent supported and 18 percent opposed these background checks. As in the March poll, majorities of both gun owners (67 percent) and non-owners (78 percent) favored background checks. Forty-four percent of respondents said they own a gun.

In light of the debate in the Senate, respondents were asked if they approved or disapproved of the positions taken by Sen. Ron Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Thirty-two percent said they approved of Johnson’s opposition to background checks while 57 percent said they disapproved of his position. Ten percent said the background check issue wasn’t important to them either way. Sixty-eight percent said they approved of Baldwin’s support for background checks, with 23 percent disapproving and 8 percent saying the issue wasn’t important to them.