Two months before the gubernatorial primary a third of Democrats remain undecided about whom to support — though a quarter say they plan to vote for state schools chief Tony Evers — according to a Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday.
The poll also found Gov. Scott Walker leading all 10 of his potential Democratic opponents in the poll’s first look at potential head-to-head match-ups.
The 35 percent of Democrats who expressed no preference for who should be the nominee is down from 44 percent in the previous poll released in early March.
Evers received 25 percent support, up from 18 percent in March, while no other candidate received more than 7 percent.
More voters had an opinion about Evers than any other Democratic candidate, though 61 percent still said they had no opinion about the three-time elected state superintendent. Only 3 percent of respondents didn’t have an opinion about Walker.
Former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn, political activist Mike McCabe and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin each received 7 percent support, which was within a point or two of what they garnered in the March poll.
The poll was conducted June 13-17 among 800 registered voters by telephone, including 60 percent by cell phone. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points. Questions about the Democrats were asked of 318 likely Democratic primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.4 percentage points.
“There’s no denying that Evers is the front runner in a field of 10,” poll director Charles Franklin said in an interview.
But Franklin noted the race remains fluid with candidates potentially stockpiling resources for a television ad blitz in the final weeks of the primary. He said research on big-field campaign primaries has found partisans who like a frontrunner tend to stick with that candidate, but partisans who don’t like the frontrunner might coalesce around another candidate who emerges down the stretch.
“Whether that happens depends on whether anyone catches fire suddenly,” Franklin said.
The poll asked all voters about a match-up between Walker and Evers and also between Walker and former Rep. Kelda Roys, who won the Wispolitics.com straw poll at the Democratic Party state convention earlier this month. All other candidate match-up questions were posed to half of the respondents, and thus carry a one-and-a-half point higher margin of error.
Walker led in the head-to-head match-ups by margins ranging from 44 percent to 42 percent against McCabe to 49 percent to 36 percent against corporate attorney Josh Pade.
Walker led Evers 48 percent to 44 percent and he topped Roys 48 percent to 40 percent.
“We have a moderately close race, one that in most of those cases is inside the margin of error or close to it, but with the governor a little bit ahead,” Franklin said.
The last time the poll was conducted in March, Roys received less than 1 percent support from registered Democratic voters, but since then has garnered national attention with a campaign video in which she was possibly the first candidate for office in American history to breastfeed in a campaign video.
But in the latest poll Roys only received 2 percent support from the Democrats polled. Franklin said that result was surprising and a sign that Roys didn’t receive a bounce from her convention performance.
State firefighter union president Mahlon Mitchell received 4 percent support in both the March and June Marquette polls. He has collected a number of union endorsements and a second-place finish in the convention straw poll.
The other Democratic candidates also didn’t move much since March. Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, the only candidate who has run radio ads so far, went from 3 percent to 4 percent, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout remained at 5 percent, and Rep. Dana Wachs dropped from 4 percent to 2 percent. Pade, who launched his campaign in April, received 1 percent.
Money for schools, questions on Foxconn
The poll provided some good news for Walker as he seeks a third term. For the first time since October 2014, there were more respondents who approved of his job performance (49 percent) than disapproved (47 percent). Also, 52 percent say the state is headed in the right direction.
But the poll also found as it did in March that 46 percent of voters don’t think Walker’s $3 billion offer of taxpayer incentives to lure Foxconn Technology Group to Racine County was a good deal (compared with 40 percent who do) and 61 percent say it won’t benefit their community (29 percent say it will).
And 59 percent say they prefer more funding for schools, compared with 35 percent who want lower property taxes, which has been a key focus of Walker’s first two terms in office as he cut state spending on K-12 and higher education. Earlier this week Walker declared that he is “the pro-education governor” because of increases to K-12 spending in his most recent budget.
The poll found eroding support for Walker’s signature Act 10 law, which mostly eliminated collective bargaining for public employees. A plurality, 47 percent, support a return to collective bargaining, with 43 percent opposed.
Democrats also maintain an enthusiasm edge with 71 percent saying they are very enthusiastic about voting in November, compared with 67 percent of Republicans who say the same. But Republicans have closed that gap since March when it was 64 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans who said they were very enthusiastic.
The poll had a slight GOP tilt with 47 percent identifying as Republicans and 44 percent identifying as Democrats. That’s almost an inverse of the poll’s long-term trend.
National issues asked in poll
Other poll findings on national issues:
- Half of respondents disapprove of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while 44 percent approve.
- 55 percent oppose building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border (the poll was conducted before the issue of separating immigrant children from parents intensified over the weekend).
- 38 percent thought Trump’s summit with North Korea will reduce nuclear weapons, while 52 percent said it won’t.
- 55 percent said raising tariffs on steel and aluminum will hurt the national economy, while 29 percent said it would help.
- There is a 47-47 split between those who have at least some confidence in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and those with little to no confidence.