Governor's race tight, Marquette University Law School poll says
Democrat Mary Burke is the leading contender to face Gov. Scott Walker in the 2014 election.With the election for governor still more than a year away, a new poll shows the race is already close.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker had 47% and Democrat Mary Burke had 45% in a poll of 800 registered voters released Tuesday by Marquette Law School.
That's within the poll's margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, making it "essentially a tossup," said the poll's director, Charles Franklin.
Among Wisconsin Republican primary voters, Walker led the pack for potential 2016 candidates for president. He came up short in a head-to-head matchup with former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, as did other Republicans.
The results also showed support for the statewide expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school tuition, and for the first time, a majority favored same-sex marriage.
President Barack Obama scored slightly higher in favorability than he did in a Marquette poll in July. But more people are opposed to the federal health care overhaul, known as Obamacare, than support it.
As for shutting down the federal government to try to block that law? Wisconsinites in the poll didn't like it.
The telephone poll took place from Oct. 21 to Thursday.
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and former state commerce secretary, is the only announced Democrat in the race. Nearly as many voters said they would vote for Burke as Walker, even though 70% said they did not know enough about her to have an opinion.
The results also were close when Walker was matched with state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), who is also considering a run. She finished third in a four-way Democratic primary to oppose Walker in his recall election last year. In the poll, Walker had 47% to Vinehout's 44%. Among those polled, 79% said they didn't know enough about the legislator to rate her.
Against Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Walker had a larger lead — 48% to 42%. Barca, a leading Democratic critic of Walker, also is not widely known. Eighty-two percent of the those in the poll said they were unable to give him a rating.
Franklin said the lack of recognition isn't a big factor at this stage — the election is in November 2014. Those who sided with the Democratic candidates often used party affiliation or political leanings for their pick in head-to-head matchups, he said.
The poll indicated that 50% of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Walker and 46% had an unfavorable opinion of him. For Burke, 17% had a favorable view and 14% had an unfavorable view.
"We felt all along this was going to be a close race, just as it was in the past," Walker told reporters after addressing a Wisconsin Towns Association conference in Middleton.
By the time of the election, voters will see a stark contrast, and Burke would return the state to failed policies of the past, Walker said.
Not surprisingly, the Burke campaign disagreed:
"Today's poll results confirm that Wisconsin remains deeply divided politically and (is) open to new leadership that's about solving problems, not picking fights," spokesman Joe Zepecki said in a statement.
Walker's job approval rating has changed little since the last Marquette poll in July. In the latest poll, 49% said they approved of Walker's handling of the job and 47% disapproved. In the July poll, Walker had a job approval rating of 48%, while 46% disapproved of his job performance.
That closely matches Obama's rating. The poll showed 49% approve — and 46% disapprove — of the job he is doing.This is a slight improvement from July, when the president's approval was 47% and his disapproval was 46%.
The poll showed Walker ahead of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville among Republicans and independents who lean Republican as the party's pick in the 2016 presidential campaign. Walker has 29% and Ryan has 25%.
The pair are followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 9% each; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 4%; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 2%.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite. She has the support of 64% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. She was followed by 11% each for Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
In head-to-head matchups for the presidential race, Clinton led all of the potential Republicans, often by wide margins.
On other topics:
■ Jobs continue to be a key concern for voters, but there was a sign that voters think the state is faring better than during last summer.
In the poll, 41% said the state is lagging behind other states in job creation, while 37% said that Wisconsin is adding jobs at about the same pace as other states. Fourteen percent said the state is adding jobs faster than other states.
In July, 48% said the state was lagging behind other states, while 35% said Wisconsin was keeping up. Eight percent said the state was adding jobs more quickly than other states.
■ Expansion of school vouchers for private schools had support from 51% of those polled; it was opposed by 44%. Walker's 2013-'15 budget included language expanding vouchers beyond Milwaukee and eastern Racine County.
■ Voters favored two recent tax cuts passed by the Legislature and signed by Walker. According to the poll results, voters liked property tax cuts over income tax cuts.
A recently passed $100 million cut in property taxes was favored by 56% and opposed by 36% of those polled.
A $651 million income tax cut passed this summer was favored by 52% and opposed by 35%.
■ Support for same-sex marriage has increased over the past year, mirroring a national trend.
The poll indicated that 53% support same-sex marriage, 24% favor civil unions and 19% said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex unions. A year ago, the poll indicated that 44% favored same-sex marriage, 28% favored civil unions and 23% opposed any legal recognition.
"This is movement that is very much in line with national polling," said Franklin, adding it's the first time in more than a year of polling that support in Wisconsin exceeded 50%.
The results come seven years after voters approved amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions.
On the same-sex marriage question, the poll surveyed 400 people. That raised the margin of error to plus or minus 5 percentage points.
■ On the abortion issue, 38% supported and 56% opposed a requirement that women seeking the procedure must also have an ultrasound. The bill was passed and signed into law this year.
■ Walker's decision to reject federal funds to expand Medicaid health programs drew objections. Fifty-six percent opposed it and 37% supported it.
■ There is no clear-cut support for a new casino. The proposal for a gambling venue in Kenosha is supported by 41% of those polled and opposed by 38%. Nineteen percent were undecided. The federal government has approved the Menominee tribe's proposal for a casino in Kenosha, but Walker has the final say.
Support for a Kenosha casino is strongest in metro Milwaukee, excluding the City of Milwaukee. Outside the city, 54% support and 30% oppose the casino proposal that Walker is now considering. In the city of Milwaukee, 37% support and 45% oppose expansion.
■ Respondents opposed a measure by Walker to end residency requirements for local government workers. Fifty percent opposed ending those requirements, and 45% supported doing so.
■ The federal government shutdown was highly unpopular — and Obamacare fails to get a majority of support among those polled.
Nineteen percent support the shutdown that was pushed by the GOP to stop health care reform from going into effect. Those opposed to the shutdown: 76%.
Meanwhile, 42% said they favored the health care law and 48% had an unfavorable view.