Analysis: Key takeaways from the latest Marquette Law School Poll

Hat Tip: WI Conservative Digest

Key takeaways from the latest Marquette Law School Poll
October 11, 2018

Bill McCoshen
Managing Partner, Capitol Consultants

The October Marquette Law School poll shows Governor Walker moving back into the lead in the gubernatorial race albeit well within the margin of error.  It also showed Democrat Tammy Baldwin continue to hold a nearly double-digit lead over challenger Leah Vukmir in the US Senate race, and GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel leading the AG race.

The poll included 1000 registered voters including 799 likely voters and used the same methodology as previous samples.  The differences between each sample are the partisan make-up.  Each sample includes “leaners.”

July sample:                August sample:          September sample:   October sample:

43% Republican          45% Republican          45% Republican          47% Republican

43% Democrat             43% Democrat             46% Democrat             44% Democrat

12% Independent        11% Independent        9% Independent          8% Independent

The long-term total for the previous 48 statewide Marquette polls, with 42,752 respondents, is 43% Republican, 47% Democrat and 9% Independent.  This sample is likely a bit more Republican than the voter mix expected to vote in 26 days.  As such, the results may benefit GOP candidates slightly more than a traditional turnout model.

No polling has been able to accurately reflect certain Trump supporters who do not participate in polls.  Recall, the final Marquette poll in 2016 had Hillary with a 6% lead and Trump won on election day.

Political Environment in Wisconsin – voters remain positive about the direction of the state and their own personal financial situation.  Normally that would help incumbents at the top of the ticket. Not this year. 

Voters feel good about the economy over the past year and are optimistic about the economy in the coming year.  51% of all likely voters feel the economy has gotten better while only 15% believe it has gotten worse over the past year.  These numbers are virtually unchanged from September.  The rest, 31%, think things have stayed the same.  If the economy is the top issue for voters in the gubernatorial race, then these numbers may have contributed to Governor Walker retaking the lead.   Marquette did not include a “most important issue” on their survey to know for certain what issues are driving voters.

Males are the most positive with 63% feeling things have gotten better while a plurality of women, 41%, feel the same.  84% of Republicans feel things have gotten better while 53% of Democrats think things have stayed the same.  A plurality of Independents, 47%, think things have stayed the same.  These numbers have stayed roughly the same on the last three Marquette polls.  However, there are differences in the regional breakdowns.  For example, 59% of likely voters in Rest of State say the economy has gotten better vs. 49% in August.  Moreover, likely voters in the City of Milwaukee and the Madison media market are slightly more negative than there were in August.  As we have pointed out in previous analysis these two markets are critical to Democrats success in statewide races.

  • 59% of voters (-2%) in Rest of Milwaukee feel things have gotten better over the past year.
  • 58% of voters (+5%) in Green Bay feel things have gotten better.
  • 51% of voters (-7%) in Rest of state feel things have gotten better.
  • 40% of voters (-9%) in City of Milwaukee feel things have gotten worse.
  • 42% of voters (+4%) in the Madison market feel things have gotten better while 42% think things have stayed the same.

Voters are also optimistic about the economy over the next year.  43% of voters (+3%) expect the economy to get better over the next year while 29% (+6%) expect it to stay the same.  Males are slightly more positive than women with 48% of men (+3%) and 39% of women (+2%) expecting the economy to get better.  72% of Republicans (+2%) expect the economy to get better in 2019 while 37% of Democrats (-5%) expect the economy to get worse.  A plurality of Independents, 40% (+3%), expect the economy to get better.  Voters in the suburban ring of Milwaukee and Green Bay markets are the most optimistic about the future with the biggest movement coming in the Green Bay market.  Voters in Rest of State are significantly less optimistic than they were in September.

  • 51% of voters in Rest of Milwaukee expect economy to get better. (+5%)
  • 49% of voters in Green Bay expect the economy to get better. (+12%)
  • A plurality of voters in the City of Milwaukee 39%, expect the economy to stay the same. This is unchanged from September.
  • Voters in Madison are evenly split with 34% (+5%) saying the economy will get better and 34% saying it will stay the same.
  • 40% of likely voters (-12%) in the Rest of state say economy will get better.

Voters remain positive about the direction of the state.  53% of all likely voters (+3) feel Wisconsin is going in the right direction while 42% (-5%) feel the state is on the wrong track.  This is the same right track number as August.

The right track improvement coupled with optimism about voter opinions on the economy may have contributed to the Governor retaking the lead in the gubernatorial race.  Right track is a key indicator of incumbent’s strength or vulnerability.  As such, it may also be helping Tammy Baldwin.

Scott Walker back in the lead!

Governor Walker seems to have found his grove in the gubernatorial race.  He has been playing offense since the September Marquette poll and is running significantly better ads on television than he did in August and September.  He has used unforced errors by Tony Evers to begin to define Evers as a supporter of increased property, income and gas taxes.  Moreover, the Walker team is now using third parties (seniors/farmers) to deliver some of their messaging.  Another smart step.  Governor Walker now leads Tony Evers 47% – 46%.  The Governor has picked up 4% while Evers lost 1% since September.  A one-point margin would make this race too close to call.  The make-up of the sample may explain some of the growth in the Governor’s ballot since September, but it’s unlikely it was solely responsible for the gain.      

With 26 days to go before the election Evers campaign is struggling to regain their footing.  Evers could still win the race, but he and his team need to be much sharper than they have been the past three weeks.  Expect Evers to have whatever resources he needs to put himself in position to win as Walker is seen as the biggest target in the county for national Democrats.

While the Governor is in a much better position than he was in September, he has not clinched reelection.  In fact, the Marquette poll shows very little room for growth for Walker unless he can convince supporters of Libertarian Phil Anderson to come his way.  The biggest advantage Walker has in the final weeks is the statewide voter identification and turnout operation he has built over three previous elections.   Simply put, Walker has the best ground operation ever built in Wisconsin.

Walker’s lead among likely male voters has increased by 11% since September.  He now leads Evers 56% – 37% among male voters.  In September it was 49% – 41%.  Evers leads among female voters has remained similar at 15%.  Evers now leads among likely female voters 54% to 39%.  In September Evers led among women 53% – 37%.  Walker’s tax message appears to be resonating with men, seniors and middle-income voters as he has seen clear improvement with these voting coalitions since September:

  • Evers leads among seniors (60+) 50% – 44% (Evers -9% since September).
  • Evers leads among college educated voters 53% – 43% (Evers -4% since Sept)
  • Voters making Under $40,000 – Evers 54% – Walker 35% (Evers -4% since Sept)
  • Voters making $40K to $74K – Evers 51% – Walker 45% (Evers -11% since Sept)
  • Evers lead among Independents declined from 20% to 6%. (-14%)

It should be noted that Evers numbers with these groups remained relatively constant except for voters who make $40k – 74K where he dropped by 4%.  The movement with these coalitions all came in improvement in Governor Walker’s support.

When “leaners” are separated Walker is supported by 91% (-3%) of Republicans and Evers is supported by 93% of Democrats – same as September.

There are significant changes in the regional breakdown for both candidates in two of the three big markets since the September poll.

  • 54% of voters in Rest of Milwaukee favor Governor Walker. (unchanged since Sept)
  • 60% of voters in the Green Bay area favor Governor Walker. (+15 since Sept)
  • 70% of voters in the City of Milwaukee favor Evers. (-10% since Sept)
  • 61% of voters in the Madison area favor Evers. (+3% since Sept)
  • 46% of voters in Rest of state favor Walker. (-4% since Sept)

Libertarian Phil Anderson is capturing 5% on either ballot. This remains more problematic for Governor Walker than Tony Evers.  Anderson is getting twice as many Republicans to support him than Democrats.  His primary strength comes from self-identified Independents.

We remain convinced that Walker’s likely ceiling for winning is below 50% in a three-way race.  This latest poll suggests Evers would struggle to get over 50%, too.  This could turn out to be the closest gubernatorial race in modern history.     

Walker Job Approval:

The governor’s job approval has improved +2% since September.  48% of voters approve of the way Governor Walker is handling his job.  49% (-2%) of likely voters disapprove of his job performance.  Intensity on this question remains key.  A plurality of likely voters strongly disapproves of Walker’s job performance at 42%.  There is a significant gender gap on this question.  49% of women strongly disapprove while 45% of men strongly approve of the Governor.  The problem areas are the same four voter coalitions; females, seniors, college educated and working people:

  • 49% of female voters (+4%) strongly disapprove.
  • 45% of seniors (-4%) strongly disapprove.
  • 46% of college educated strongly disapprove. (same as September)
  • 51% of voters making less than $40,000 strongly disapprove. (same as September)
  • 44% of voters (-4%) making between $40K and 74K strongly disapprove.
  • 48% (-9%) of Independents disapprove of Walker’s job performance, and intensity has decline from 46% strongly disapproving in Sept to 34% (-12%) strongly disapproving

This is more evidence Walker is making gains with men, seniors, Independents and middle-income voters.

88% (-2%) of Republicans approve with 73% (+2%) strongly approving.  Governor Walker improved in every region except Rest of State although some of the gains are within the margin of error:

  • 57% of voters (+2%) in Rest of Milwaukee approve; 45% (+3%) strongly approve.
  • 64% of voters (+11%) in Green Bay area approve; 50% (+18%) strongly approve.
  • 26% of voters (+3%) in City of Milwaukee approve; 15% (+4%) strongly approve.
  • 31% of voters (+2%) in Madison area approve; 23% strongly approve (unchanged).
  • 44% of voters (-6%) in Rest of State approve; 35% (-4%) strongly approve.

Tony Evers Favorability:

Tony Evers total name ID continues to increase.  80% of likely voters now have an opinion about Evers.  Overall, Evers is viewed favorably by 41% (+1%) of voters and unfavorably by 38% (+9%) of voters.  34% of men (-2%) view Evers favorably while 45% (+13%) have an unfavorable view.  Here is more evidence Walker has hurt Evers with male voters over the past month.

Female voters remain positive with 48% (+5%) favorable and 32% (+6%) unfavorable.  17% of voters still do not know enough to form an opinion of Evers.  Female voters continue to be the largest and most consistent coalition supporting Evers.

Evers is viewed favorably by 79% (+5%) of Democrats, 39% (+5%) of Independents and 6% of Republicans which is unchanged from September.  But it’s clear Evers unfavorable marks have increased significantly in in Green Bay as well as Rest of State and Madison:

  • 52% (-2%) of Madison area voters have a favorable view with 26% (+12%)
  • 43% (-4%) of City of Milwaukee voters have a favorable view with 22% (+7%)
  • 37% (+4%) of voters in Rest of Milwaukee are favorable while 46% (+4%)
  • 45% (+9%) of Rest of state are favorable compared to 37% (+13%)
  • 33% (-5%) of Green Bay voters are favorable compared to 46% (+22%)

Baldwin in great shape in U.S. Senate race! 

The US Senate race continues to show incumbent Tammy Baldwin with a double-digit lead over Leah Vukmir 53%-43%.  Vukmir’s campaign was hoping to see a game-changing “Kavanaugh bounce” like many other GOP US Senate candidates have enjoyed in other states.  It did not happen.  The questions related to the SCOTUS confirmation process appear to suggest all the drama didn’t move the political needle in Wisconsin.  In other words, no partisan group gained much, if any, advantage from the SCOTUS confirmation process.  Both campaigns are playing offense, but mostly on different issues.  Baldwin is playing offense on health care while Vukmir is playing offense primarily on Baldwin’s role in the Tomah VA scandal and secondarily on Baldwin’s support for Medicare for all.  Baldwin has a massive cash advantage heading into the final three weeks.  Can a visit from President Trump change the trajectory of this race?  Maybe, but 10 points is a considerable amount to make up this late.

Baldwin continues to dominate with female voters.  She led among likely female voters in September by a 60% to 31% margin (+29%).  She now leads 62% – 34% (+28).  Vukmir still leads among male voters.  In September Vukmir led male voters by 50% – 43% (+7%).  She now leads men 53% to 44% (+9%), a slight improvement.  Baldwin continues to enjoy big leads among key voter coalitions; females, seniors, college educated, Independents and workers making less than $74,000.  Vukmir has made gains with Independents and middle-income voters, but not as much as Governor Walker with these same groups.

  • Baldwin leads among seniors 62% – 34%. (unchanged)
  • Baldwin leads among college educated voters 58% – 39%. (+1%) since September.
  • Baldwin leads Independents 55% – 27% (-10%) since September.
  • Baldwin leads among voters making less than $40,000 64% – 30%. (+3%) since Sept.
  • Baldwin leads among voters making 40K to $74,000 55% – 42%. (-12%) since Sept.

The regional breakdown shows significant strength for Baldwin in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.

  • City of Milwaukee: Baldwin 81% – Vukmir 19% (+6%) since September.
  • Rest of Milwaukee: Vukmir 54% – Baldwin 44% (+1%) since September.
  • Green Bay area: Baldwin 52% – Vukmir 38% (+4%) since September.
  • Madison area: Baldwin 67% – Vukmir 30% (+3%) since September.
  • Rest of State: Baldwin 58% – Vukmir 37% (+9%) since September.

Tammy Baldwin Favorability:

Tammy Baldwin’s favorability has improved over the course of the summer. Baldwin is viewed favorably by 49% (+3%) of voters while 42% (unchanged) of voters view her unfavorably.    Baldwin’s strongest support is with seniors (60+) at 55% (+3%).  Baldwin has 89% (+3%) support from Democrats, 52% (+6%) with Independents and 11% (+1%) with Republicans.  Baldwin enjoys 91% name ID statewide.  Baldwin’s regional support is strong:

  • Madison area: 60% (+1%) favorable – 31% (-6%) unfavorable
  • City of Milwaukee: 71% (+11%) favorable – 21% (-5%) unfavorable
  • Rest of State: 53% (+2%) favorable – 38% (+1%) unfavorable
  • Rest of Milwaukee: 40% (+1%) favorable – 50% (+1%) unfavorable
  • Green Bay area: 39% (-1%) favorable – 53% (+10%) unfavorable

Leah Vukmir Favorability:

Leah Vukmir is running hard, but she has been out resourced from the beginning.  Moreover, her campaign has not been able to find a message to move voters away from Baldwin.  Her name ID has improved to 73% statewide.  Vukmir has 30% (unchanged) favorability compared to 43% (+14%) unfavorable.  Men are favorable by a 37%-33% margin.  However, women strongly unfavorable.  23% (-8%) of female voters have a favorable view of Vukmir while 52% (+11%) are favorable.  Baldwin’s messaging has clearly hurt Vukmir with female voters since September.

57% (+1%) of Republicans are favorable toward Vukmir while 28% (-6%) haven’t heard enough or refused.  Independent voters have a 57% (+25%) unfavorable view while 9% (+5%) are favorable.  Baldwin’s messaging is clearly resonating with Independent voters, too.  Vukmir’s regional breakdown:

  • Rest of Milwaukee: 40% (-3%) favorable – 40% (+12%) unfavorable
  • Green Bay area: 35% (+10%) favorable – 41% (+14%) unfavorable
  • Madison area: 20% (+4%) favorable – 49% (+18%) unfavorable
  • City of Milwaukee: 12% (-23%) favorable – 48% (+8%) unfavorable
  • Rest of State: 24% (unchanged) favorable – 41% (13%) unfavorable

Baldwin has used her huge financial advantage to drive up Vukmir’s unfavorable rating in every corner of the state in the past three weeks.  Worse yet, Vukmir no longer has an advantage in the Rest of Milwaukee region.  No good news for the Vukmir campaign in the Marquette poll, but these numbers would not reflect a very strong performance by Vukmir in the first Senatorial debate.  Moreover, some internal polls have this race closer.

What’s going on in the race for Attorney General? 

The Attorney General is starting to get noticed with the first debate tomorrow night.  Attorney General Brad Schimel leads challenger Josh Kaul 47% to 43%.  Schimel lead with several key coalitions including men, seniors, Independents and upper income voters.  Kaul leads among women, millennials 18-29, voters 30-44 and lower income voters.  Here are the coalition breakdowns:

  • Schimel 56% – Kaul 36% among male voters (+20%).
  • Kaul 49% – Schimel 39% among female voters (+10%).
  • Kaul 59% – Schimel 28% with millennials 18-29 (+31%).
  • Kaul 51% – Schimel 37% with voter 30-44 (+14%).
  • Schimel 48% – Kaul 42% with senior 60+ (+8%)
  • Kaul 46% – Schimel 45% with college educated (+1%)
  • Schimel 39% – Kaul 21% with Independents (+18%)

The regional AG ballot breakdown gives both candidates good news:

  • City of Milwaukee; Kaul 59% – Schimel 18% (+41%)
  • Rest of Milwaukee; Schimel 56% – Kaul 38% (+18%)
  • Madison; Kaul 60% – Schimel 33% (+27%)
  • Green Bay Area; Schimel 57% – Kaul 30% (+27%)
  • Rest of state; Schimel 48% – Kaul 41% (+7%)

Attorney General Brad Schimel’s Favorability:

Attorney General Brad Schimel is viewed favorably by 32% (+6%) of voters and unfavorably by 22% (+6%).  46% of voters haven’t heard enough to form an opinion. 36% (+5%) of male voters are favorable of Schimel while 22% (+4%) are unfavorable.  29% (+8%) of female voter are favorable of Schimel while 21% (+7%) are unfavorable.  AG Schimel is the only statewide Republican with a net positive (+8%) rating with female voters.

53% (+8%) of Republicans are favorable as are 12% (+3%) of Democrats and 28% (+20%) of Independents.  A full 41% (-8%) of Republicans and 58% (-14%) of Independents haven’t heard enough to form an opinion.  That means Schimel has room to grow with his base.  The regional breakdowns for Schimel:

  • Rest of Milwaukee: 43% (+7%) favorable – 20% (+2%)
  • Green Bay area: 39% (+8%) favorable – 17% (+9%)
  • Rest of state: 24% (+8%) favorable – 22% (+13%)
  • Madison area: 24% (+8%) favorable – 28% (+4%)
  • City of Milwaukee: 13% (-6%) favorable – 22% (-5%)

Josh Kaul Favorability:

Josh Kaul remains largely unknown to Wisconsin voters, yet pulled within the margin of error on the ballot.  That means he is benefitting from the overall political environment for Democrats this cycle.  Kaul’s ballot numbers are not related to anything he or his campaign has done at up to this point.  His overall favorable vs. unfavorable are still within the margin of error.  81% of voters statewide haven’t heard enough or don’t know enough to form an opinion.  85% (-4%) of Democrats haven’t heard enough or don’t know enough to have an opinion of Kaul.  Kaul appears to be counting on a “blue wave” to carry him to victory.  There is no evidence in this poll of a blue wave.  Arguably, there was some evidence in the September poll, but that Democrat advantage has dissipated.

The coalition and regional breakdowns for Kaul are largely irrelevant as a strong majority of voters in every coalition and every reason do not know who he is.  Again, his ballot score reflects the environment, not of his campaign.

AG Schimel still needs strong performances in the three scheduled debates as those are likely to get the most coverage of anything in this race.  Schimel is still in the driver’s seat for reelection.

Voter enthusiasm remains strong with the GOP closing the gap! 

Likely voters remain very enthusiastic to vote in the midterm elections.  78% (unchanged) of likely voters say they are very enthusiastic to vote this fall.  Men are slightly more enthusiastic to vote than women – which should help Walker, Vukmir and Schimel.  82% (+5%) of male voter and 75% (-4%) of female voters are very enthusiastic.   Republicans cut the Democrat enthusiasm advantage in half from 10% in September down to 5% now.  78% (+8%) of Republicans are now enthusiastic to vote compared to 83% of Democrats (+3%).  If there was a “Kavanaugh bounce” it should be noticeable in voter enthusiasm.  Both sides enthusiasm is up since September.  50% (-18%) of Independents are very enthusiastic to vote.  The regional breakdown is as follows:

  • City of Milwaukee; 73% (-15%) of likely voters are very enthusiastic.
  • Rest of Milwaukee; 77% (-3%) of likely voters are very enthusiastic.
  • Madison area; 80% (+2%) of likely voters are very enthusiastic.
  • Green Bay area; 80% (+4%) of likely voters are very enthusiastic.
  • Rest of state; 79% (+6%) of likely voters are very enthusiastic.

It still is possible to see movement in all three of the races on the top-of-the-ticket.  The AG race has the largest number of undecided voters so that is where the most movement will occur.

The Trump Factor

President Trumps job approval rating among likely voters is solid.   47% of likely voters approve of the way the president is handling his job.  This ties his all-time high in Wisconsin.  52% of likely voters disapprove.  Trump’s current job approval is just outside the margin of error.      Trump continues to have a major gender gap.  58% (44% strongly) of male voters approve of the president while only 40% of women approve.  Moreover, 62% (58% strongly) of women disapprove.  That gives the president a +18 ratio with men and a -26 ratio with women. The is the largest margin on record of female voter disapproval.

President Trump still enjoys 87% (-1%) approval among Wisconsin Republicans.  96% (+2%) of Democrat disapprove.   Trump has a 2% advantage with Independents 47% – 45%.  Here are the regional breakdowns:

  • City of Milwaukee; 11% (-29%) approve – 86% (+29%)
  • Rest of Milwaukee; 57% (+5%) approve – 42% (-3%)
  • Madison area; 29% (-4%) approve – 69% (+2%)
  • Green Bay area; 60% (+6%) approve – 39% (-4%)
  • Rest of state; 47% (-1%) approve – 50% (+3%)

Trump has improved his numbers in the Milwaukee suburbs and dramatically improved his numbers in the Green Bay market.  If Governor Walker and Leah Vukmir want to bring him in to Wisconsin (seems likely now), then Green Bay is the best spot followed by something in the Milwaukee suburbs to spike GOP turnout.


Governor Walker has made significant gains since the September poll with key coalitions and in specific markets such as Green Bay.  The slightly GOP sample in the current Marquette poll is not enough to explain these gains so Walker’s messaging is resonating.

The US Senate race isn’t close on this poll.  Other polls have it closer.  But Vukmir would need a major Baldwin mistake or a significant boost from a Trump visit to make this competitive down the stretch.  26 days is a very long time in a campaign.

AG Schimel is positioned to win reelection, but he cannot take anything for granted.  He will need to be aggressive with Josh Kaul in the three debates and on the stump to put this race away.

Finally, Donald Trump could help the GOP in Wisconsin particularly in the Green Bay market.  Will it happen?

3 thoughts on “Analysis: Key takeaways from the latest Marquette Law School Poll

  1. The key take away from the Marquette law School poll is that it is rubbish! How can anyone possibly believe a self-selecting sample? Marquette had to call 77,048 phone numbers in order to attain a sample of 1000! That is rubbish. As a retired UW statistician I find it incredibly insulting to pass off garbage like this (response rate=1.3%) as RANDOM!! It’s pure garbage. This boarders on fraud. At the very least Marquette should consult with one of the statisticians in the mathematics department before embarking on a useless sampling spree that requires 77,048 calls. No statistical analysis of any kind may be applied to rubbish data such as this. Good grief what a joke these polls are.


  2. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (10/22/18) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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