Polling supports the prediction that the November election in the potentially decisive battleground state of Wisconsin will be a nail biter, with President Donald Trump running neck-and-neck with top Democratic contenders.

In recent months, the Marquette Law School Poll has shown little movement in levels of support for candidates, Trump’s job approval or views on impeachment.

“I think the big story is not much is changing,” said Charles Franklin, the poll’s director, on Wednesday.

But he said lots can happen between now and the state's April 7 primary, as states voting earlier shake up the Democratic field. 

The poll of 358 likely voters, conducted Jan. 8-12, was taken after the Jan. 3 U.S. drone attack that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and after the Iranian shelling days later of Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

The poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden holding onto a 49%-45% lead over Trump in a head-to-head match-up, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders with a 47%-46% advantage, both within the poll’s 6.3% margin of error. Also within the margin of error, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren trails Trump 45%-48%. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top four Democrats with 44% support compared to Trump’s 46%.

Those percentages were almost the same as the December poll, though Trump has lost the slight lead he had over Biden and Sanders in November.

With a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, little has changed in the lineup of Democratic candidates, with 23% of likely primary voters picking Biden as a first choice, 19% for Sanders, 15% for Buttigieg and 14% for Warren. Other Democrats remained in single digits.

On the favorability meter, Biden was favorable to 68% of primary voters and unfavorable to 24%. Sanders weighed in with 67% favorability, Warren with 62% and Buttigieg with 47%.

Noting that the numbers have been “strikingly stable” in recent months, Franklin said he expects voting in early states to move things.

“The thing to buckle your seatbelts for is once Iowa votes there will be a real scramble in the standings,” he said. “As New Hampshire votes following that, that will perhaps restore someone or perhaps completely sink someone.”

There was little change in views about Trump’s Ukraine scandal and the resulting House vote to impeach him. Forty percent of voters feel that Trump had done something “seriously wrong” with regard to Ukraine. Nine percent said he did something wrong, but not seriously, and 49% held that he either did nothing wrong or they didn’t know.

Trump is accused of pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden over Biden’s son’s involvement with a Ukrainian gas company by withholding military aid. Perception of the facts surrounding the controversy differed among partisan lines, with 59% of Republicans saying Trump did not ask for an investigation of political rivals and 19% saying he did, while 82% of Democrats said he asked for such an investigation and 9% said he didn’t.

The Senate trial of Trump’s impeachment is expected to begin next week, and the poll asked voters what they think the outcome should be. Forty-four percent of respondents said the Senate should convict Trump and remove him from office, while 49% want to see him acquitted.

Trump’s job approval numbers held steady over the course of the last year, with 48% approving of his performance and 49% disapproving. His lowest point came in almost exactly a year ago when his job approval dipped to 44% in the midst of the government shutdown resulting from his standoff with House Democrats over funding for a border wall.

His strongest marks were for his handling of the economy, where he scored 55% support, with support lagging for his handling of foreign policy, for which he earned 44% approval.

On the state level, the poll found that voters remain supportive of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers after his first year in office, with 51% approving of his job performance and 40% disapproving.

This month’s poll delved into the thorny issue of race, asking respondents how serious they think are problems associated with prejudice against blacks and Latinos.

Thirty-four percent said they see prejudice against blacks as a very serious problem, and 38% felt it was somewhat serious. Twenty-six percent saw prejudice against blacks as not a serious problem, or not a problem at all.

Prejudice against Latinos presented a serious problem for 29% of respondents and a less serious problem for 36%. Thirty-one percent said prejudice against Latinos was not a serious problem or not a problem at all.

Sign up for Cap Times newsletters:

Newsletters:

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.