Monday, April 7, 2014

Why I’m not too concerned about the latest Marquette Poll

Results indicate that Burke remains relatively unknown, and could still be a strong challenger to Scott Walker...who is losing his base support

Fast facts:
  • If more “unsure” liberals express a willingness to vote for Mary Burke, poll results become much closer (44 percent for Burke to Scott Walker’s 48 percent, if going by the rate of the recall election).
  • A substantial size of Walker’s core base is showing support for Mary Burke -- nearly 30 percent of conservatives say they would vote for the Democratic challenger.

Recent polling from the Marquette Law School shows that Mary Burke is still behind Scott Walker in the governor’s race. Burke trails Walker by 41 percent to 48 percent, respectively, in polling that was conducted late last month.

With seven months until the actual election, some on the left are sounding the alarms, while many on the right are ringing bells of victory. Those celebrations by the right are premature, however, because Burke remains a relatively unknown name.

Indeed, Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Poll, has stated that we haven’t yet hit the full extent of the campaign by any means, and that it’s too early to determine the attitudes of voters in November through a poll conducted in March.

Franklin added that even though advertising has begun in some areas, particularly outside the Milwaukee and Madison media markets, “what’s missing at this point though is the full-blown campaign statewide.”

“As we go in the next few months, there’s no question we’re going to start to see that (advertising) permeate the entire state,” he said.
Expect a closer race as more liberals start to support Burke

I’m skeptical of the wide margin for similar reasons. While there is a large contingent of voters who are of the “anyone but Walker” bloc, there are others who want to hear more from Burke before making a concrete opinion on her as a candidate.

Taking a closer look at the Marquette Poll’s “crosstabs” (.zip file) -- the nuts and bolts of the poll that shows how certain segments of people voiced their opinions on questions held within -- shows that Mary Burke’s favorability rating remains relatively low even among liberals in Wisconsin. Only 34 percent of self-identified “liberals” and just under half of those who call themselves “very liberal” gave Burke positive ratings, with 57 percent of all liberals stating they haven’t heard enough about her to form an opinion.

Indeed, only 73.8 percent of liberal/very liberal respondents said that they would vote for Burke if the election were held today. That number is well below the 86 percent of liberals that voted for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the 2012 recall election.

If 86 percent of liberals in Marquette’s latest poll had selected Burke (rather than the 73 percent of support she received), it would make the poll much closer -- around 44 percent for Burke to 48 percent for Walker.

Walker is losing his base’s support

What the media hasn’t focused on, however, is how much conservative support Walker has actually lost to his opponent. Nearly seven out of every 25 self-identified conservatives (close to 30 percent of those on the right in the state) have stated that they would vote for Burke if the election were held today.

Where Burke can laugh off name recognition as a reason why her numbers may be low, Walker has a serious problem. It’s not as if the people of Wisconsin don’t know who he is. If a sizable chunk of his voting bloc is showing signs of wavering, come November his re-election chances may be slimmer than once thought.

Here’s another sign of optimism for liberals in this and future elections: support for the Tea Party has been cut considerably. While 2012 recall election exit polls showed 36 percent of Wisconsinites “supported” the movement, only 21 percent of Marquette Poll respondents held a “favorable” view of the Tea Party this year. More than 45 percent held an unfavorable view of the Tea Party in 2014, an increase of 11 percent from two years ago.

Walker is losing other areas of support he held in the 2012 recall. White voters, 56 percent who voted for Walker in 2012, are less supportive of him today, with barely 50 percent saying they’d vote for the governor today. And while 59 percent of men said they voted for Walker in 2012, only 52 percent said they’d vote for him if the election were held now.

This race will be considerably closer than reports are indicating

It all comes down to this: will this be a contentious race, or is it going to be a landslide for Walker? Burke is low on support from liberals at the moment, but as the race gets closer to the election, she’s bound to garner at least 80 to 90 percent of the progressive base. Walker, on the other hand, is losing his base, which is curiously supporting Mary Burke at this time. That may change in a few months, but it’s interesting nonetheless, especially since the governor has the name recognition that his challenger does not.


  1. It's going to be incredibly interesting to look at the turnout in this election. There are a few questions to consider.
    1. Are liberals as fired-up to oust Walker as they were in 2012? I would argue that they aren't, and so we'll have to wait and see if that impacts turnout.
    2. Are conservatives as protective as Walker as they were in 2014? This is the more interesting question. I would argue that the vitriol from the left backfired and cost Barrett the recall election. If it had been handled more professionally (for lack of a better word), I think that Barrett would have walked away with it. There was just too much emotion. It was all justifiable, to be sure, but the way it was demonstrated was a huge turnoff to a lot of people. That motivated Walker supporters to come out in force. I don't know if that will happen this time.
    3. Who stays home? It's no secret that Burke isn't a progressive's dream candidate. Barrett wasn't either, of course, but there was enough of an underlying movement to bring out a lot of voters who may have otherwise stayed home. Will those folks come out this time? And what about the conservatives that say they would vote for Burke? My guess is that a significant portion of them simply end up not voting.
    4. Who show up? How many people didn't come out in 2012 simply because they didn't support the recall, regardless of their opinion of Walker? How many people voted for Walker simply because they didn't like the idea of recalling a sitting governor for political reasons during the middle of his term? I know plenty of people who voted for Walker in the recall election but have said that they would be more open to voting for someone else during a normal election cycle.
    It'll be a battle for turnout, even more so than it was in 2012. I think the odds are that Walker wins by a slightly smaller margin than what he beat Barrett by in 2012, but I could certainly foresee a scenario where Burke squeaks by with a victory. Polls are polls, but it's far too early to take much from them.

  2. As the commenter above stated it will be all about turn out -- as it always is. Especially in an off year election. But that turnout may well be driven by $$$$ and we all know where that pendulum is swinging. If Burke wins I'll be thrilled, but I will also be very, very surprised.