Scott Walker lost the 2018 race for Wisconsin governor, with the Associated Press calling the race in the early morning hours of November 7 after the City of Milwaukee finished counting 47,000 ballots.
“My name is Tony Evers, and I’m going to be the next governor of the State of Wisconsin,” said Evers, the state schools superintendent, as he took the stage around 1:30 a.m. on November 7, 2018. He promised “better schools, better roads” and delivering people’s healthcare needs. He said he would avoid “picking political fights… It’s time for a change, folks. And it is a change that we have delivered.”
Those City of Milwaukee votes gave Evers a 2% lead, outside the margin for a recount that the losing candidate wouldn’t have to pay for. In the end, these were the election results:
Tony Evers: 1,316,247 50%
Scott Walker: 1,287,374 48%
These were the results before the Milwaukee ballots were counted:
Tony Evers: 49% 1,261,238
Scott Walker: 49% 1,260,176
(98 percent in)
This is how the Milwaukee ballots broke down: Milwaukee announced at 12:50 a.m. that Walker received 7,181 of those votes, and Evers received 38,674 of them.
A losing candidate has to request a recount in Wisconsin but can do so if the margin is within 1 percent of the vote, Fox 6 Milwaukee reports. Walker could still request one, but he’d have to pay for it.
What the Polls Showed
The only poll that showed Walker with a fighting chance: The Marquette University Law School poll, which showed the conservative governor tied or ahead of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction in several polls.
For Walker to win, most of the polls in Wisconsin’s governor’s race needed to be dead wrong. However, giving Walker some hope and Democrats some angst: The polls were pretty much dead wrong in Wisconsin in 2016, and it’s a state that Donald Trump narrowly won. The $68,000 question in the Wisconsin governor’s race on election day was whether the polling error was unique to Trump – a historically different candidate – or would carry over into the Walker race.
In the end, most polls called the victor right but overstated his margin.
Since June 2018, Evers, an educator who has spent his life in public schools, led in six polls. Walker, the conservative governor who survived a bitter recall over his collective bargaining reforms, led in two. Two polls were tied. The two latest polls heading into election day showed Evers up by 5 (Emerson) and a dead heat (Marquette.)
Libertarian candidate Phil Anderson could have played spoiler as he had earned around 3 to 6 percent in various recent polls. In the six polls measuring a three-way contest, Evers led in three, two were a tie, and Walker led in one (by 1 percent). However, four of those were by the same pollster – Marquette University. However, Anderson didn’t pull near that percentage when the election arrived.
Among registered voters, Walker fared somewhat better in polls, showing the importance of get out the vote efforts to each candidate.
One thing that might have hurt Walker: Voters have shifted their concerns from the economy, where they place him highest, to healthcare and education, where they place Evers highest (at least according to the latest Marquette poll.)
Voters are extraordinarily polarized in Wisconsin, a phenomenon which dates back to Act 10 collective bargaining reforms and the heated recall that failed against Walker. Almost all Democrats support Evers; almost all Republicans support Walker. The game was GOTV and also for independents, who were breaking for Evers 49% to 42%, according to the latest Marquette poll. Polls have shown that Walker has slipped with independents since his failed presidential efforts.
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.
Walker did best in the latest Marquette poll with white men, both college and non-college educated, whereas women of all races and non-whites tilt to Evers. Walker received 47 percent, with Evers receiving 44 percent and Anderson at 5 percent among registered voters.
There were 10 polls measuring an Evers/Walker contest since June 2018, according to RealClearPolitics.
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. In early October, Walker led by 1.
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 has defined himself as a tax cutter.
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. It’s an unknown as to whether a Walker loss would be a canary in the mine predicting a swing away from Trump in 2020 as the president may have brought a unique set of non-party aligned, previously apathetic voters to the polls, especially in rural areas, and it’s unclear whether they would be similarly inclined to come out to vote for Walker in a lower turn-out midterm election. The president did hold a northern Wisconsin rally to boost Walker, whereas President Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders stumped for Evers in Milwaukee.
In 2014, the RCP polling average correctly predicted that Walker would prevail over Democrat Burke.
Here’s what the polls in the Wisconsin governor’s race showed, with the most recent first:
Emerson Poll [10/29/18 to 10/31/18]
The Emerson poll also showed that Walker’s favorability rating was underwater (50% unfavorable to 45% favorable).
Marquette University Law School Poll [10/24/18 to 10/28/18]
|Phil Anderson (L)||3%|
You can read the poll here.
Marquette says of the latest poll: “The poll was conducted Oct. 24-28, 2018. The sample included 1,400 registered voters in Wisconsin interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. For likely voters, the sample size is 1,154 and the margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points.” You can read the poll here.
According to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert, Marquette’s polls may tilt “slightly” Republican.
The Marquette poll is sometimes perceived as tilting slightly Republican.
The latest Marquette poll also showed a large lead for U.S. Senate for Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin over Republican challenger Leah Vukmir, a legislator (Baldwin leads among likely voters with 54 percent compared to 43 percent for Vukmir.) The poll also showed the Republican Attorney General incumbent Brad Schimel ahead, but that race has tightened to 47 percent for Schimel and 45% for Democratic challenger Josh Kaul. Far fewer voters have heard of Schimel or Kaul than the other candidates polled, so that might explain some of the differences.
Marquette University Law School Poll [10/03/18 to 10/07/18]
|Phil Anderson (L)||5%|
NBC News Marist [9/30/18 to 10/03/18]
You can read this poll here.
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.
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