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Marquette Poll: Wisconsinites largely support COVID-19 actions, Biden sees boost

Marquette Poll: Wisconsinites largely support COVID-19 actions, Biden sees boost

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Charles Franklin, who runs the Marquette University Law School Poll, speaking at a recent Cap Times Idea Fest.

Most Wisconsinites back governmental efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, including school closures and restrictions on crowd sizes, a new Marquette University Law School poll finds

Meanwhile, half the respondents said they strongly supported a new federal law that provides direct cash payments to individuals, while an extra 38% said they somewhat approve. 

The poll, in the field March 24-29, came as Gov. Tony Evers was announcing his "safer-at-home" order to close nonessential businesses for a month and while the state was continuing to grapple with a virus that has left more than a dozen dead in Wisconsin.

Amid the evolving governmental orders and federal progress on legislation, 9% of respondents said they were left without a job, while 22% said they had reduced work hours and 26% said they have had to work from home. 

The state's $1.9 billion unemployment insurance reserve account is being heavily tapped into now as unemployment claims skyrocket. Preliminary figures from the state Department of Workforce Development showed more than 240,000 have filed unemployment claims since March 15, surpassing the 13,000 claims that were filed over the same period in 2019.

Most respondents — 68% — also said they were very concerned about the pandemic nationally, while 25% said they were somewhat concerned. Projecting forward, fewer than half said the outbreak would be under control by the end of next month; but 44% still were optimistic the economy would improve in the next year. 

Nationally, governors have fared better than President Donald Trump when they're assessed on their handling of the coronavirus crisis. This poll was no different, with 76% saying they approved Evers' response while 51% approved of Trump's.

Overall, Evers' job approval rating also jumped from the last time the poll was conducted, in February. Then, he was at 51%, while the latest poll puts him at 65%. For Trump, the change was 49% pre-crisis to 48% now.  

The poll consisted of 813 registered Wisconsin voters who were interviewed by landline or cell phone and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. 

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April 7 election 

The poll shows Democratic presidential primary voters' support for Vice President Joe Biden has jumped to more than 60%, a nearly 50% increase from February. 

In all, Biden was 62% of Democrats' first choice, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won the 2016 Wisconsin presidential primary over Hillary Clinton, was at 34% — an increase of 5 percentage points over the last poll.

The margin of error for those results is plus or minus 5.9 percentage points for that sample with 394 respondents. 

For head-to-head matchups between the candidates and Trump, Biden led the president 48-45, though the results are within the margin of error.  

Sanders, meanwhile, was trailing Trump 45-47, a result that's also well within the margin of error.  

Looking ahead to Election Day, 51% said the date should be moved while 44% said it should be held as scheduled. 

Sanders himself has called on the state to delay its election. In a statement shortly before the poll results came out, he urged Wisconsin officials to also extend early voting and work on moving the process "entirely to vote-by-mail." 

"While we wait for a decision, we urge our supporters to vote-by-mail," he said. 

A series of federal lawsuits looking to alter election procedures are continuing to make their way through the courts as April 7 looms. 

The poll results come as state and local elections officials are scrambling to find poll workers to staff sites around Wisconsin and municipalities are consolidating polling locations. More than 100 communities have said they don't have any poll workers for next week's election and nearly 60% of localities say they're short on individuals to staff the sites, according to new survey results from the state Elections Commission. 

Evers said he would use National Guard members to man polling sites to address the shortage, according to an amicus brief filed by the state Department of Justice in a federal lawsuit that's seeking to push back the election. 

"The National Guard is currently determining how many personnel it can make available for each county," Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss wrote in the brief. 

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, April 2 at 5 p.m.

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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