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New poll shows state of presidential election in Wisconsin

A new Marquette Law School Poll out Wednesday offers a glimpse of where the Wisconsin electorate stands after the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Hillary Clinton has opened a 15-point lead over Donald Trump among likely Wisconsin voters in the latest Marquette Law School Poll.

The poll is the first in Wisconsin since Trump and Clinton accepted their respective parties’ nominations at the Republican and Democratic national conventions last month.

Before the conventions, Clinton led Trump among likely voters by four points, 45-41, but in the latest poll she leads 52-37. Among registered voters she led by six points before the convention, 43-37, and now leads 46-36.

Clinton is also closing the gap between her favorable and unfavorable numbers, while Trump’s gap has expanded. Before the conventions, Trump’s net unfavorable rating was 29 and afterward grew to 37. Clinton’s net unfavorable rating was 17 before the convention and shrank to one point in the latest poll among likely voters.

The poll was conducted after Trump had a tumultuous week in which he sparred with a gold-star Muslim family and withheld for several days his endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who trounced a feisty Republican primary challenger on Tuesday.

Poll director Charles Franklin said the race is currently looking more like the 2008 election, in which Barack Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points, than the 2004 election, in which John Kerry won Wisconsin by a narrow margin but lost the general election.

In the closely watched U.S. Senate race, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson trailed former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by 11 points among likely voters, 53-42. Among registered voters, Feingold leads 49-43.

Feingold’s lead among likely voters increased from five points in the July poll.

Registered voters viewed Feingold more favorably than they viewed Johnson, 44 percent compared with 34 percent. More respondents also expressed an unfavorable view of Feingold than Johnson, 36 percent to 32 percent.

A relatively high percentage of respondents continue to not have an opinion about Johnson, a first-term incumbent, 31 percent compared with 18 percent who don’t know enough about Feingold, who served three terms in the Senate before Johnson defeated him in 2010.

The Senate results found Johnson continuing to lag the national trend of Republican Senate candidates outperforming Trump, though not by much. As the Washington Post noted before the Marquette poll came out, Republican incumbent senators are faring about eight points better than Trump in 11 closely watched states. Johnson is doing five points better than Trump among both likely and registered voters.

The Post’s analysis chalked up the difference to Johnson being less well-known in Wisconsin than senators in other states, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who in one poll led his Democratic opponent by 13 points while Clinton led Trump by 6 points.

Third-party candidates for president and U.S. Senate are registering mid-single-digit polling numbers, but a high percentage of likely voters haven’t heard much about them.

Libertarian Gary Johnson is polling 9 percent in a race that also includes Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2 percent, but 65 percent say they haven’t heard enough about him. Libertarian Phil Anderson polls 7 percent in a three-way race for Senate, though 84 percent say they haven’t heard enough about him.

Political observers say the post-convention polls tend to define how the presidential race will shape up through November. In national polls, Trump received a bump from his convention, but Clinton received a slightly bigger bump and now leads by nearly eight points.

The poll found Ryan’s popularity in Wisconsin has continued to rise, with 50 percent having a favorable opinion of the Janesville native compared with 34 percent who have an unfavorable view.

The poll was conducted Aug. 4-7 with 805 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. There were 683 likely voters, who say they are certain to vote in November. Their responses carried a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Among registered voters, 47 percent identified as Democrats, 44 percent identified as Republicans and 8 percent identified as independents. The trend over several polls has been 48 percent Democratic, 42 percent Republican and 9 percent independent.

Other poll results

Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating remains below 40 percent. The poll found 38 percent approve of his job performance while 59 percent disapprove. That’s consistent with what it has been since he began running for president while overseeing a difficult state budget early last year.

To address a $939 million transportation budget shortfall, 43 percent of registered voters said the state should increase revenue, 33 percent said it should cut spending and 12 percent said it should borrow more.

One in four registered voters said Muslim Americans should be subject to special scrutiny because of the threat of terrorism. Two-thirds said they are loyal citizens in the battle against terrorism.

Three out of five registered voters said immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to stay. One in six said they should be required to leave.


Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.