The first poll in the Wisconsin governor’s race since state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers won the Democratic primary shows Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a dead heat with Evers.
There have been four other polls in the race, but three of them came before Evers defeated a crowded field in the Democratic primary. Those polls all used different methodologies, but three of them showed Evers with a solid lead over Walker, and the fourth, and oldest poll, showed Walker leading by 4 points. It all adds up to a likely close race.
In the latest poll, by Marquette University Law School, Walker, who is known for his collective bargaining reforms and who launched a failed bid for president, and Evers, are tied among likely voters. Walker is ahead by 2 points among all registered voters. The margin of error in the poll is +/- 4.5 percentage points for likely voters and +/-4 percentage points for the full sample.
The poll also shows that Libertarian candidate Phil Anderson could end up being the spoiler.
The governor’s race, to some degree, remains a game of definition, as 46 percent of voters still lack an opinion of Evers, according to the poll. However, that number declined from 60 percent the month before. Negative advertisements have already hit the airwaves in Wisconsin against Evers as Republicans try to change that; voter opinions on Walker, however, are polarized and hardened.
The latest Marquette poll also showed a tight race for U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin and Republican challenge Leah Vukmir, a legislator. Baldwin leads Vukmir 49% to 47% among likely voters (and 51% to 43% among all registered voters.)
There have been four polls measuring an Evers/Walker contest since June 2018, according to RealClearPolitics. Evers has an average lead of +6.3% in the RCP polling average for Wisconsin governor.
The first poll to raise eyebrows in the Wisconsin governor’s race came from NBC News/Marist on July 26, 2018. However, Evers’ lead over Walker in that poll was so large it caused some to wonder if that poll was an outlier. On July 30, 2018, though, a new poll by Emerson College showed Evers with a smaller, but still significant, lead over Walker, who previously warned of a possible looming “blue wave” in the state. A Democratic leaning Public Policy Polling poll, taken in mid August, showed Evers up by 5 points.
An earlier Marquette poll (which is considered one of the most reliable Wisconsin polls) showed Walker leading by 4 points in mid-June.
Among the trends causing some Republican concern: A closely-watched and hotly contested state Supreme Court race went to the liberal-backed candidate in spring 2018, reversing the trend of past elections. Democrats also flipped two legislative seats. Walker is a two-term governor who survived a heated recall.
Of course, polls are not always accurate. A declining number of reliable political polls across the country was one reason given for the widespread polling error in predicting the Donald Trump victory in 2016; the presidential polls were wrong on Trump in Wisconsin too, although whether that sort of polling error would carry over into a gubernatorial race is unclear due to the wildcard nature of the Trump candidacy and personality.
In 2014, the RCP polling average correctly predicted that Walker would prevail over Democrat Mary Burke.
According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert, the NBC/Marist poll sampled more Democrats, Marquette’s polls may tilt “slightly” Republican, and the Emerson poll sampled more college-educated people than typically exist in the electorate. Real Clear Politics labels the PPP as a Democratic leaning poll.
Here’s what the polls in the Wisconsin governor’s race show, with the most recent first:
Marquette University Law School Poll [8/15/18 to 8/19/18]
|Phil Anderson (L)||6%|
The above table shows the results for likely voters. Walker leads slightly among all registered voters, with 46 percent to Evers at 44 percent and Anderson with 7 percent.
The poll found that voters care most about jobs and the economy and about K-12 education (the latter of which could boost Evers as state school superintendent).
Public Policy Polling [8/15/18 to 8/16/18]
You can read the PPP poll in full here. It also measured Wisconsin voters’ attitudes toward President Donald Trump.
Emerson College [7/26/18 to 7/28/18]
The Emerson College poll, which was released on July 30, 2018, has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percent. It measured the attitudes of registered voters. You can read the poll here.
As for an Evers-Walker match-up, the poll found that independents were breaking for Evers: “Evers appears in a strong position for a General Election run against incumbent Governor Scott Walker. Evers leads 48% to 41%, with 7% undecided. One variable that could factor in to the Evers lead is Governor Walker’s popularity in the state is underwater, with a 40% approval and 46% disapproval. Independents disapprove of Walker 47% to 36%, and break for Evers over Walker 47% to 34%,” the poll found.
Attitudes toward education spending might be playing a role in Evers’ lead, the poll indicates, as more than half of Democrats and Independents felt there was not enough spending on education in the state.
NBC News/Marist [7/15/18 to 7/19/18]
|Other||Less than 1%|
The NBC News/Marist poll measured registered voters. You can see the poll here.
The poll found that 61 percent of those polled felt that a new person should be given a chance as Wisconsin governor.
Marquette University [6/13/18 to 6/17/18]
The Marquette poll showed Walker leading against Evers and also against other possible Democratic challengers, although in some cases by smaller margins than against Evers.
You can see the poll here.
The poll also found that, at that stage, a lot of people didn’t know enough about the Democratic candidates to have an opinion of them.
The Marquette poll correctly predicted that Walker would defeat his 2014 Democratic challenger Mary Burke in its last pre-election poll that year.