New Marquette Law School Poll finds roughly one in three Wisconsin voters still undecided one month before primaries

July 18, 2018

Voters split along partisan lines on Supreme Court nominee, other national and state issues

Please note: Complete poll results and methodology information can be found online at law.marquette.edu/poll

MILWAUKEE — A new Marquette Law School Poll finds that, with four weeks to go until the Wisconsin primary elections, approximately one in three voters in the state remains undecided on candidates. In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 30 percent of primary voters are undecided. Among Democratic primary voters, 38 percent say that they don’t know which of 8 candidates they will support for the gubernatorial nomination.

The numbers are little changed from the previous poll, conducted June 13-17, where in these races 30 percent of Republican primary voters and 34 percent of Democratic voters were undecided on the candidates.

These non-incumbent candidates are not yet well known to registered voters in Wisconsin. Two-thirds of registered voters are unable to say if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of the Republican Senate candidates, although the candidates are somewhat better-known among Republicans and among Republican primary voters. Nonetheless, even among primary voters, more than half lack an opinion of either candidate. Table 1 gives results for all registered voters, for those who say they are Republicans or lean to the Republican party, and for those who say they will vote in the Republican primary.

Table 1: percentage unable to give favorable or unfavorable opinion of Republican candidates

All Reg. VotersRep & Lean RepRep Primary Voters
Kevin Nicholson696156
Leah Vukmir665851

With the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, the percentage of respondents saying they haven’t heard enough or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate is shown in Table 2. The Democratic candidates are only a little better known, if at all, among fellow Democrats or among Democratic primary voters than among all registered voters.

Table 2: percentage unable to give favorable or unfavorable opinion of Democratic candidates

All Reg. VotersDem & Lean DemDem Primary Voters
Tony Evers605451
Matt Flynn747778
Mike McCabe848684
Mahlon Mitchell858682
Josh Pade939695
Kelda Roys898887
Paul Soglin716965
Kathleen Vinehout757169

In contrast, relatively few registered voters lack an opinion of the incumbents, with 6 percent lacking an opinion of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and 18 percent lacking an opinion of Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Primary preferences
The Republican primary for U.S. Senate has tightened since March, with Vukmir now at 34 percent and Nicholson at 32 percent. Nicholson held an advantage in the March and June polls, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Republican senate primary

Feb-MarchJuneJuly
Kevin Nicholson283732
Leah Vukmir193234

Among those who say they will vote in the Democratic primary for governor, Evers receives 31 percent of the vote, while all other candidates are in single digits, as shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Democratic gubernatorial primary

Feb-MarchJuneJuly
Tony Evers182531
Matt Flynn775
Mike McCabe673
Mahlon Mitchell446
Josh PadeNA10
Kelda Roys023
Paul Soglin974
Kathleen Vinehout556

Evers’ percentage has increased from 18 percent in the March poll to 25 percent in June and to 31 percent in the current poll.

The poll was conducted July 11-15, 2018. The sample included 800 registered voters in Wisconsin, interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points. For the Democratic primary, the sample size is 305 and the margin of error is +/- 6.6 percentage points. For the Republican primary, the sample size is 266 and the margin of error is +/- 7 percentage points.

Ten issue questions were asked of half the sample and have a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percentage points. The half-sample items are listed at the end of this release.

Effects of trade tariffs
Twenty-four percent think increased tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will improve the U.S. economy, while 55 percent think tariffs will hurt the economy. Twenty-one percent say they don’t know. In the June poll, twenty-nine percent said tariffs would improve the economy, while 55 percent said tariffs would hurt the economy.

Partisan differences in views of tariffs are sharp, with a plurality (44 percent) of Republicans saying tariffs are good for the U.S. economy, while 29 percent say they are bad for the economy and 26 percent say they don’t know. A large majority of Democrats say tariffs are bad for the economy, as do a majority of independents.

Table 5: view of tariffs by Party ID

RepDemInd
Good for Econ44722
Bad for Econ297954
Don’t know261424

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles recently announced that some production would be moved out of the U.S. due to European tariffs. Thirty-seven percent say the increased European tariffs are the reason Harley-Davidson is moving some production out of the U.S., while 47 percent say that production would have left the U.S. regardless of tariff issues. There is a sharp partisan split on views of the impact of tariffs, with 21 percent of Republicans saying the production change was due to tariffs, while 67 percent say the change would have happened anyway. Among Democrats, 56 percent say the shift is due to tariffs, while 31 percent say production would have left the U.S. in any case. Independents fall between the partisans, with a plurality saying production would have moved in any case.

Table 6: reason for Harley production move, by party ID

RepDemInd
Due to tariffs215631
Would move in any case673140
Don’t know121328

State of the state and incumbent ratings
Fifty-two percent of Wisconsin voters see the state as headed in the right direction, while 42 percent think the state is off on the wrong track. This is unchanged since June.

Walker’s job approval stands at 47 percent, with 45 percent disapproving. The trend in approval in 2018 is shown in Table 7.

Table 7: Scott Walker Job Approval Trend in 2018

ApproveDisapproveDon’t know
July 201847457
June 201849473
March 201847476

Baldwin is viewed favorably by 41 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 40 percent, with 18 percent not able to give a rating. In June she had a 41 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable rating. In March her rating was 37 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable.

State issues
Fifty-nine percent of registered voters say the quality of roads and highways where they live is only fair or poor, while 40 percent rate the quality of their roads excellent or good.

Those in the northern and western regions of the state, including the Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire and La Crosse areas, have a somewhat less favorable view of road quality, with 34 percent saying roads are excellent or good while 66 percent rate roads as fair or poor. In the southern parts of the state, including the Milwaukee and Madison areas, 48 percent say roads are excellent or good, while 52 percent rate roads as fair or poor.

Views of the Foxconn incentive package and the effects of the new manufacturing center are little changed from the June poll. Forty-six percent think the state is paying more than the Foxconn plant is worth, while 39 percent think the plant will provide at least as much value as the state is investing in the plant. Fourteen percent say they don’t know if the plant will be worth it or not. In the June poll, 46 percent said the state was paying too much and 40 percent said it was worth it.

A majority (53 percent) of registered voters statewide believe the Foxconn plant will substantially improve the economy of the larger Milwaukee area, while 33 percent do not think it will and 14 percent say they don’t know. In the June poll, 56 percent said the Milwaukee area would benefit and 33 percent did not think so.

When asked if businesses where the respondent lives will benefit from Foxconn, 30 percent say businesses will benefit directly from the Foxconn plant, while 58 percent say their local businesses will not benefit and 12 percent don’t know. In the June poll, 29 percent said their local businesses would benefit and 61 percent did not think so.

National issues
Respondents were asked, “Would you be willing to see your senator vote for a Supreme Court nominee who was highly qualified but with whom you disagree on a number of policies, or would you want your senator to vote against any nominee you disagree with, no matter how well qualified they may be?” Fifty-five percent said they would support a qualified nominee despite disagreement, while 29 percent said they would oppose such a nominee regardless of qualifications. In February 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia but before President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Court, 57 percent said they would support a qualified nominee despite disagreements while 30 percent said they would oppose a nominee despite their qualifications.

In 2016, with a Democratic president nominating someone to serve as a justice, almost three-quarters of Democrats said they would support a qualified nominee despite disagreements, while a plurality of Republicans said they would oppose a nominee despite the nominee’s qualification.

Table 8: 2016 support or oppose nominee by party ID

RepDemInd
Support despite disagreement387262
Oppose despite qualification481918

In 2018, those views are reversed. With a Republican president nominating a Supreme Court justice, two-thirds of Republicans say they would support a qualified nominee despite disagreements while Democrats are now evenly divided on this question. In both years close to 60 percent of independents said they would support a qualified nominee despite disagreements.

Table 9: 2018 support or oppose nominee by party ID

RepDemInd
Support despite disagreement664458
Oppose despite qualification194221

Initial reaction to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was announced two days before the poll began interviewing, finds 27 percent with a favorable opinion, 22 percent with an unfavorable opinion and 50 percent who say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know. Partisan differences in reaction are substantial, as shown in Table 10.

Table 10: opinion of Kavanaugh by party ID

RepDemInd
Favorable52516
Unfavorable14522
Not heard/don’t know464962

The vacancy on the Supreme Court has raised the saliency of abortion as an issue, although opinion has changed little over the last six years in Wisconsin. Table 11 shows the trend in opinion since 2012.

Table 11: abortion opinion 2012-2018

10/25-28/1210/21-24/1310/23-26/147/11-15/18
Legal in all cases28262427
Legal in most32363436
Illegal in most23252418
Illegal in all cases12101511
Don’t know4236

Trump job approval
President Trump has a 42 percent approval rating with 50 percent disapproving. In the previous Marquette Law School Poll, in June, his approval was 44 percent with 50 percent disapproving. Partisans are deeply divided on Trump’s job performance.

Table 12: Trump job approval by party ID

RepDemInd
Approve86328
Disapprove89345

On Trump’s handling of the issue of immigration, 40 percent approve, while 53 percent disapprove. There are sharp partisan differences, as with his overall approval rating.

Table 13: Trump handling of immigration approval by party ID

RepDemInd
Approve74437
Disapprove179155

Enthusiasm for voting
Overall, 58 percent of registered voters say they are very enthusiastic about voting in this year’s elections, with 27 percent somewhat enthusiastic and 12 percent either not very or not at all enthusiastic. Among Republicans, 62 percent are very enthusiastic, while among Democrats 69 percent are. Among independents, 51 percent say they are very enthusiastic about voting this year. In June, 67 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Democrats were very enthusiastic, along with 51 percent of independents.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
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, July 11-15, 2018. The margin of error is +/-4.1 percentage points for the full sample. For the Democratic primary, the sample size is 305 and the margin of error is +/- 6.6 percentage points. For the Republican primary, the sample size is 266 and the margin of error is +/- 7 percentage points.

Ten issue questions were asked of half the sample and have a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percentage points. The issues asked of half the sample are tariffs, Harley-Davidson, condition of roads, the three Foxconn items, support for a Supreme Court nominee, favorability to Kavanaugh, approval of Trump’s handling of trade and opinion on abortion policy.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 43 percent Republican, 43 percent Democratic and 12 percent independent. The long-term total for the previous 45 statewide Marquette polls, with 40,152 respondents, is 43 percent Republican and 47 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the current sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 28 percent Republican, 26 percent Democratic and 44 percent independent, compared to the long-term totals of 27 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 41 percent independent.

The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data

About Chris Jenkins


Chris Jenkins

Chris is the Associate Director of University Communication in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Chris at (414) 288-4745 or christopher.t.jenkins@marquette.edu. View all posts by .