New Marquette Law poll: Governor’s race is neck-and-neck, Johnson gains in Senate contest

By: - October 12, 2022 4:10 pm
Looking up at the Capitol dome from far below right before the entrance door

The Wisconsin state Capitol (Phil Roeder | CC BY 2.0)

The 2022 race for governor has narrowed to a toss-up among likely voters, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers hanging on to a slim 1-percentage-point lead against Republican challenger Tim Michels in the latest Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Johnson (official photo)

In the Senate race, Republican Ron Johnson has gained over Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Johnson’s Democratic challenger, among likely voters.

In the Marquette survey, conducted Oct. 3-9, 47% of those surveyed who said they were “absolutely certain to vote” in the Nov. 8 election backed Evers, while 46% said they would choose Michels. The survey defines its likely voters as those who tell pollsters they are “absolutely certain” that they will vote.

Johnson was the choice of 52% of likely voters in the poll, while 46% favored Barnes.

Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes (official photo)

Johnson and Barnes had their first of two debates on Friday, Oct. 7. Although the survey was still underway at that time, more than 90% of the voters taking part were interviewed before that debate.

In a comparison of all registered voters, the Democrats’ odds improved. Evers led in the governor’s race with 46% to Michels’ 41%, while Barnes and Johnson were tied in the Senate race at 47% each. 

The poll interviewed 801 registered voters, including 652 who were identified as likely voters. The margin of error was 4.3 percentage points among registered voters and 4.8 percentage points among likely voters.

The contrasting margins for likely voters compared with registered voters may send a message to Democrats in particular about election turnout, which has historically fallen off in midterm elections.

At the same time, however, a national poll Wednesday from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that concern for reproductive rights appeared to be the top issue motivating Democrats to vote this year, particularly in states with full abortion bans, as Wisconsin has become after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. 

Gov. Tony Evers speaks to students at Winnequah School in Monona
Gov. Tony Evers (Sgt. Alex Baum | Department of Military Affairs)

How that will actually play out in Wisconsin is uncertain. Fully 60% of people surveyed in the Marquette poll said they opposed the court’s ruling, and Evers has been campaigning heavily on reproductive rights. That hasn’t yet translated into an advantage in the polls, however.

Tim Michels (Scott Olson | Getty Images)

With the Marquette Law survey’s release Wednesday, Michels’ campaign issued a statement touting the challenger’s gain on Evers and accusing the governor of “failures.”

Evers’ campaign, meanwhile, sent out a press release that pushed back against recent Michels advertising, including a claim that the governor delayed in his response to the August 2020 property destruction in Kenosha during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Those claims were called out two years ago as “misinformation” by the Republican Kenosha County sheriff, the Evers campaign statement noted.


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.