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Voters disapprove of direction of the state

A new poll finds a new high-water mark for voter dissatisfaction with the state's direction.

Voter dissatisfaction with the direction of the state has reached its highest level since Gov. Scott Walker took office — 57 percent, compared with 36 percent who say it’s headed in the right direction — according to a new poll.

Walker’s disapproval rating also hit its highest mark (60 percent) in the latest biannual survey from St. Norbert College and Wisconsin Public Radio. And only one in three voters say they want Walker to run for a third term in 2018, compared with 62 percent who oppose such a move.

The poll’s previous high-water mark for Walker’s disapproval rating was 58 percent in fall 2011 as opponents planned for an ultimately unsuccessful recall election stemming from his Act 10 collective bargaining changes for public employees. The approval rating was 38 percent in that poll, one point worse than the latest poll.

But the 57 percent “wrong direction” response is the highest the poll has found since as far back as spring 2003. The previous high was 55 percent in spring 2009. Under Walker it reached 54 percent in spring 2011 at the beginning of his term shortly after protesters swarmed the Capitol.

The poll offered some possible clues as to the reason for voter dissatisfaction, such as 58 percent saying Walker’s short-lived presidential campaign has had a negative effect on their view of him, and two-thirds saying it had a negative impact on the state of Wisconsin.

Those who say the economic conditions in the state are excellent or good has fallen from 54 percent a year ago to 38 percent today. Last fall’s poll had a more even split of Democrats and Republicans and more independents than this fall’s poll.

Wisconsin voters have a more dismal view of the direction of the country, with 62 percent saying it is headed in the wrong direction, but 51 percent approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance.

In the upcoming presidential election, Democrats favor Hillary Clinton (47 percent) over Bernie Sanders (42 percent), while Republicans are split among Ben Carson (20 percent), Donald Trump (18 percent) and Marco Rubio (18 percent), who has been endorsed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and a score of other Republican legislators. Jeb Bush, who recently picked up former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s endorsement, is polling at 3 percent in the state.

The poll found Democrat Russ Feingold of Middleton leading Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, 51 percent to 40 percent.

The poll was conducted Oct. 14-17 among 603 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. It included 47 percent self-identified Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, compared with 39 percent self-identified Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

Wendy Scattergood, an assistant political science professor at St. Norbert College, said the poll has more Democrats because it is weighted to reflect presidential election year participation demographics, which tend to skew Democratic. She noted independents are more pessimistic about the economy than Democrats or Republicans, and also 36 percent approved of Walker’s job performance, compared with 3 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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