Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker trails his Democrat opponent Tony Evers by 5 points in the new Marquette University Law School poll.
The specifics of the poll indicate one key factor is at play here most: Walker has lost independents (they broke for Evers by 52% to 32% with 11% for Libertarian Phil Anderson.) The polarizing Wisconsin governor still enjoys rock solid support from Republicans and almost universal dislike from Democrats.
As a point of contrast: In the last Marquette poll that correctly predicted Walker’s victory over Democrat Mary Burke in the last governor’s race in 2014, independents supported Walker by 46 percent to 40 percent over Burke.
In fact, the Libertarian might be poised to be a spoiler. The Marquette poll, which was released on September 18, 2018, found that 49% of likely voters supported Evers, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction; 44% supported Walker; and 6% supported Anderson. (The margin is slightly closer, but Evers still leads, when all registered voters are polled. Among all registered voters surveyed in the poll, Evers “receives 47 percent support, Walker receives 43 percent and Anderson 7 percent in the race for governor,” the poll says.).
The Marquette poll is sometimes perceived as tilting slightly Republican. It’s the poll that showed the race tied or Walker ahead by 4 points in the past whereas other polls have shown Evers with a lead. This is the first time in the Wisconsin governor’s race that the Marquette poll has shown Evers leading.
There is evidence in the new poll that attack ads against Evers may not be working, as his favorability number has climbed as more people say they know who he is and Walker’s favorability number dropped in the poll from the month before.
The latest Marquette poll also showed a large lead for U.S. Senate for Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin over Republican challenge Leah Vukmir, a legislator. It showed the Republican Attorney General candidate ahead, however.
There have been seven polls measuring an Evers/Walker contest since June 2018, according to RealClearPolitics. Evers has an average lead of +4.7% in the RCP polling average for Wisconsin governor. RealClearPolitics rates the Wisconsin governor’s race as a toss up.
Three of the seven polls were Marquette polls. Evers has led in all other polls. You can see a roundup later in this article.
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 and a second and later Marquette poll showed the governor’s race tied.
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 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 [9/02/18 to 9/16/18]
|Phil Anderson (L)||6%|
In the Marquette poll, Walker fares best with white male non-college educated voters, but he’s losing some of them to the Libertarian. Evers was ahead with all other demographic groups listed in the poll. However, slightly more people did say in the poll that they thought the state was going in the right direction.
“The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone Sept. 12-16, 2018. The margin of error is +/-4 percentage points for the full sample,” the poll reads. “For likely voters, the sample size is 614 and the margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.”
Suffolk Poll [8/18/18 to 8/24/18]
|Phil Anderson (L)||1.6%|
You can read the details of the Suffolk poll here. It found that voters considered the economy and education to be the most important issues in the governor’s race.
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.