Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PPP poll shows Burke is a contender in gubernatorial election

Burke trails Walker by 3 percent, but neither candidate holds a clear majority

The latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll for the statewide gubernatorial contest (PDF) shows that the election should be a close one.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker still leads Democratic Party challenger Mary Burke, but the margins between them have thinned. Walker leads with 48 percent of respondents supporting him, while Burke is close behind with 45 percent. With a 2.9 percent margin of error, and 7 percent still unsure of who they support, this makes the race a competitive one.

Burke’s improved numbers likely stem from her gaining name recognition across the state. Previous polls had Burke receiving under 20 percent in terms of favorability, with large numbers (in some cases, 7-in-10 Wisconsinites) being too unfamiliar with her to make a judgment.

The PPP poll released this week, however, shows a reverse in the trend of voters who don’t know of her. Only 30 percent of Wisconsin voters didn’t have an opinion of Burke; 36 percent were favorable of her, while 35 percent were unfavorable.

Among Democrats, Burke received 67 percent favorability ratings, with 27 percent remaining unsure. As that unsure number rises -- and it will when the election season begins in full-force -- expect Burke’s favorability among Democrats to increase, and possibly tightening the race even closer than the numbers today indicate.

More moderates, too, show support for Burke than for Walker. Though 9 percent are unsure of who to support at this time, more than half of moderates (53 percent) would pick Burke over Walker (38 percent).

As with all midterm elections, this one will likely come down to who can pull out the highest turnout -- specifically, the demographic groups that they can motivate to go to the polls. There is significant age gap, for example, between age groups. Walker leads in voters who are over 30 years of age, while Burke has a significant advantage in the 18 to 29 demographic.

It seems the technologically savvy prefer Burke as well. Walker held a 49 percent to 45 advantage over Burke among phone respondents, but Burke led Walker 47 to 42 percent among those who answered over internet polling.

Race also seemed to play a factor in preferences. Walker held a 52 percent approval rating among white voters, but a 67 percent disapproval rating among non-white respondents. Burke, on the other hand, had a 50 percent favorability among non-white voters. White voters were near evenly split on Burke as favorable (34 percent) or non-favorable (37 percent).


So what’s this all mean? Mary Burke still has an uphill battle to wage in order to remain a contender. It’s way too early in the election year to make any sense of what the numbers will be come November. Yet these results give us a clear understanding of what direction things might head towards, and what strategy the Burke campaign might employ.

Burke can capitalize by motivating student or younger voters and non-white voters to come to the polls. Issues like raising the minimum wage, voting rights, and student loan reform can possibly bring these key demographics out for her. In the meantime, she can also reach out to voters who are unsure of her yet.

But the biggest thing to take away from the PPP poll released this week is that Burke is finally a definitive contender in the election. A 48-45 percent split is hardly a definitive outcome, and it will mean that both sides will be swinging this campaign season.

Expect big money to hit Wisconsin once again, however, which means a campaign of misinformation more than anything...especially against Burke, who can’t rely on out-of-state billionaire donors the way Scott Walker can. But Burke can counter it with her own money, if she’s willing to do so.

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