New Marquette Poll shows races for Senate, governor are toss-ups

‘Modest changes in turnout between now and Election Day can still make a difference.’

By: - November 2, 2022 4:08 pm
Wisconsin Senate candidates Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) and Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes in met for their first debate in Milwaukee on Oct. 7, sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association | Screenshot via YouTube

Wisconsin Senate candidates Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) and Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes in their first debate in Milwaukee on Oct. 7, sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association | Screenshot via YouTube

One week out from the Nov. 8 midterm election, the latest Marquette University Law School poll shows both the Wisconsin Senate race and the race for governor are extremely tight.

Among likely voters in the Senate election, incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has 50% support compared with 48% support for Barnes.

“That’s obviously inside the 5 point margin of error,” poll director Charles Franklin said at a press conference unveiling the poll results on Wednesday. “So the right characterization of this is this is purely a toss-up race at this point.”

The governor’s race, which has been tight for months, is now tied, with 48% of likely voters supporting Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers and 48% supporting Republican challenger Tim Michels.

Polling in the Senate race has changed quite a bit since the August primary. The current 2-point difference between the candidates represents a recent improvement for Barnes, who had lost his early lead over Johnson in the last two Marquette polls and was down by 6 points in the last poll, three weeks ago. 

In August, Barnes had a 15-point advantage among independents. That lead evaporated by September, when the Marquette poll showed Johnson with a 2 point edge among independents. In October, Johnson was up 6 points among independents and the latest polls still show him favored by independents by 7 points. Franklin attributed Barnes’ recent recovery to an increase in Democratic enthusiasm.  

The tightness of both the Senate and gubernatorial races means “modest changes in turnout between now and Election Day can still make a difference,” Franklin said.

Partisan divide on issues

The top three issues of concern among all voters were inflation, public schools and crime. But answers varied significantly by party. 

Asked to rank issues in order of importance, Republican respondents chose “accurate vote count” as their No. 1 issue, followed by inflation, crime, illegal immigration, taxes, public schools, gun violence, abortion policy and coronavirus.

Democrats ranked abortion policy as their No. 1 issue, followed by gun violence, public schools, accurate vote count, inflation, crime, coronavirus and taxes, with illegal immigration coming last.

On abortion, 84% of poll respondents said they support allowing legal abortions in the case of rape or incest, including 73% of Republicans, 83% of independents and 97% of Democrats.

Asked to choose between increasing state support for students to attend private schools or increasing funding for public schools, 29% favored more money for private school students while 63% preferred more state money go to public schools.

Forty-six percent of registered voters say it is more important to reduce property taxes when compared to increasing spending on public schools, while 48% say it is more important to increase spending on public schools.

Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents said they support an increase in state support for police, with 78% in favor of more state aid for police and 15% opposed. 

Majorities in all partisan groups also supported requiring businesses to provide paid leave for new parents, with 73% of respondents in favor and 18% opposed.

More Republicans than Democrats are worried that November’s election results won’t be accurate, but confidence in the coming election is higher than confidence in the results of the 2020 election. Among registered voters 77% said they were very or somewhat confident and 20% say they are not too confident or not at all confident the upcoming election results will be accurate. Asked about the 2020 election, 65% said they are very or somewhat confident and 33% said they are not too confident or not at all confident. Only 1% of Democrats expressed any doubt at all in the integrity of either the 2020 or 2022 elections, while 60% of Republicans lacked confidence in the 2020 election and 33% of Republicans lacked confidence in the upcoming election. Among independents, 44% had doubt about the 2020 election and 23% had doubt about the integrity of Tuesday’s election.

At the end of his presentation, Franklin added, “Polls aren’t gonna vote. There is no registered voter named the Marquette Law School Poll. So it really is up to you and in your hands. Good luck.”

The survey was conducted Oct. 24-Nov. 1, 2022, interviewing 802 Wisconsin registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.6 percentage points. The margin of error among 679 likely voters is +/-4.8 percentage points.

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.