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Democratic candidates virtually tied with Donald Trump

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Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden. 

The top Democratic presidential candidates are virtually tied with President Donald Trump in Wisconsin less than three months before the state’s April primary.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll, released Wednesday, shows the top four Democrats all either a few points ahead of or behind Trump, who marked the unofficial start to the presidential campaign season in Wisconsin on Tuesday evening by hosting a rally at UW-Milwaukee’s Panther Arena.

In the Democratic primary, former Vice President Joe Biden is the first choice, garnering 23% support from voters, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has 19%, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has 15% and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has 14%. Those numbers are within the margin of error and have changed very little from last month.

Sixty percent of Democratic primary voters say they might change their minds about their choice for president, while 38% say their minds are made up.

“What’s striking is that we’ve had the same top four for a long time and mostly in the same order,” said poll director Charles Franklin.

But with the Iowa caucuses in early February looming, Franklin said there could be a notable shift in each candidate’s standing in Wisconsin next month.

And as the U.S. House of Representatives sent articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Wednesday, Wisconsinites’ opinion on the issue has changed little, with 44% of respondents saying they support removing him from office and 49% saying the Senate should acquit. In December, 40% of respondents wanted Trump removed from office, while 52% didn’t.

Wednesday’s poll shows 48% of Wisconsinites approve of Trump’s overall job performance, while 49% disapprove, the first time the latter figure has dipped below 50%.

House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in September focusing on whether Trump abused his presidential powers by attempting to leverage Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, Biden, and his son Hunter.

After an escalation of military conflict with Iran earlier this month, 44% of Wisconsinites approve of Trump’s handling of foreign policy and 53% disapprove. Forty-three percent of Wisconsinites agreed that “it’s about time that the U.S. struck back against Iran,” while 51% disagreed. Wisconsinites are optimistic after the U.S. drone attack that killed an Iranian general, with 61% saying it’s not likely to lead to a major military conflict while 30% think it will.

2020 race

In the 2020 presidential race, the poll found Biden at 49% and Trump at 45% in a head-to-head match-up. In December, Biden had 47% support and Trump 46%. While the changes are solidly within the poll’s margin of error, poll director Charles Franklin said Biden’s standing against Trump has improved slightly over the past several polls.

In other head-to-head match-ups, Sanders had 47% compared with Trump’s 46%; while Trump had a 3-point edge over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 48-45; and a 2-point edge over former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 46-44. All of those match-ups are within the poll’s plus or minus 4.1 percentage point margin of error.

In December, Trump had slim but not statistically significant leads over those Democratic challengers.

State officials

Amid partisan discord in the state Capitol, 51% of respondents approve of how Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is doing his job, while 40% disapprove. Those figures remain virtually unchanged from last month.

A plurality of respondents — 47% — now say the state is headed in the wrong direction while 46% say it’s going in the right direction. That marks a change from the last time the question was asked in October, when 53% said the state was going in the right direction and 39% thought it was headed down the wrong track.

The poll also found widespread distrust of government. Eighty percent of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement “the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves,” 88% somewhat or strongly agreed that people in government waste taxpayer money, and 64% somewhat or strongly agreed that “you really can’t trust the government to do the right thing.”

Still, similar to previous polls, 55% said increasing spending on public schools was more important than cutting taxes, while 41% said cutting taxes was more important.

The poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone Jan. 8-12. The margin of error for questions about the Democratic presidential primary race is plus or minus 6.3 percentage points.


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