Monday, February 1, 2016

Marquette Poll shows Walker has lost NE Wisconsin, and Bernie can win it for Dems

I haven't had a lot of time to go over some of the findings from the recent Marquette Law School Poll here in Wisconsin. In particular, I wanted to dig into some of the crosstabs that came up in that poll, as I think it illustrates a potential major change in voting habits that could lead to big changes in state government. It appears that Scott Walker has lost a great deal of support in some key parts of the state, and those voters could well vote for a Democrat for president. But that shift seems to only occur if the Democrats nominate a certain candidate.

A key to Walker’s re-election in November 2014 was that he won decisively in Northeastern Wisconsin, and in much of rural Wisconsin. Which is why it is noteworthy that Walker’s declining approval ratings aren't just limited to the urban parts of the state, but are dropping throughout Wisconsin, putting him significantly underwater everywhere except the Milwaukee suburbs.

Walker approval/disapproval
City of Milwaukee 24-68
Rest of MKE Market 52-44
Madison Market 29-67
GB-Appleton Market 37-57
Rest of State 33-62

Jeez, and the GOP suburb boys say it’s Madison that’s surrounded by reality? I think these numbers tell you the real place that’s out of step.

That GB/Appleton number is especially shocking, and it makes me wonder if that played into this weekend decision by the area’s Congressman, Republican Reid Ribble, not to run for a fourth term in 2016. The same pattern of rest of the state disliking Walker repeated itself when Charles Franklin and Company asked whether Scott Walker should run for a third term as Governor in 2018. Outside of the 262, the rest of the state said “GO AWAY SCOTTY!”

Should Walker run for a third term? Yes/No
City of Milwaukee 18-78
Rest of MKE Market 51-46
Madison Market 30-68
GB-Appleton Market 35-62
Rest of State 29-69

But it’s not just Scott Walker that has issues throughout most parts of Wisconsin. Take a look at the differences in favorability in Wisconsin between the top two Democratic candidates - Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The big headline from the Marquette Poll was that the Dem race was virtually tied, with Clinton leading by less than 2%. But Sanders was also doing 10-12 more points better against potential GOP rivals than Clinton did (in fact, Clinton was statistically tied with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, while Sanders led big).

And the Marquette Poll gives a relatively obvious reason why. Outside of the City of Milwaukee, Sanders has more people viewing him favorably despite being less known than Clinton. This is especially true in those areas that Scott Walker won in 2014...and now has lost.

Favorable vs. unfavorable, Clinton vs. Sanders
City of Milwaukee Clinton 56-31, Sanders 34-26 (Clinton +17)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton 29-65, Sanders 37-38 (Sanders +35)
Madison Market Clinton 45-48, Sanders 53-22 (Sanders +34)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton 35-57, Sanders 40-37 (Sanders +25)
Rest of State Clinton 37-56, Sanders 40-34 (Sanders +25)

Expand the definitions out statewide to “urban, suburban, and rural”, and the pattern repeats. Except that Bernie also is also viewed better in “urban” areas this time as well, likely because it includes cities like Madison, Green Bay and Appleton.

Favorable vs. unfavorable, Clinton vs. Sanders
Clinton 44-46, Sanders 46-30 (Sanders +18)

Clinton 39-58, Sanders 42-33 (Sanders +28)

Clinton 32-60, Sanders 36-35 (Sanders +29)

These favorability gaps between the 2 leading Democratic candidates bore out when Marquette Law tested general election matchups with 3 potential GOP nominees. In particular, take a look how suburban Milwaukee, Madison and Green-Bay/Appleton heavily shifted towards Bernie Sanders when compared to how Hillary Clinton fared against those same GOPs.

vs. Trump
City of Milwaukee Clinton +49, Sanders +44 (Clinton +5)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -5, Sanders +9 (Sanders +14)
Madison Market Clinton +25, Sanders +40 (Sanders +15)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton +3, Sanders +11 (Sanders +8)
Rest of State Clinton +2, Sanders +6 (Sanders +4)

vs. Cruz
City of Milwaukee Clinton +42, Sanders +42 (0)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -17, Sanders -7 (Sanders +10)
Madison Market Clinton +16, Sanders +39 (Sanders +23)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton -5, Sanders +11 (Sanders +16)
Rest of State Clinton +2, Sanders +6 (Sanders +4)

vs. Rubio
City of Milwaukee Clinton +34, Sanders +42 (Sanders +8)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -22, Sanders -10 (Sanders +12)
Madison Market Clinton +16, Sanders +34 (Sanders +18)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton +1, Sanders +10 (Sanders +9)
Rest of State Clinton +5, Sanders +9 (Sanders +4)

These gaps are especially pronounced in rural Wisconsin, where Bernie picks up between 8 and 17 points against the 3 GOP candidates that were listed. Those are the areas that Dems must make up ground in if they want to gain control of the State Legislature.

vs. Trump
Urban- Clinton +30, Sanders +32.5 (Sanders +2.5)
Suburban- Clinton +7, Sanders +19.5 (Sanders +12.5)
Rural- Clinton -6, Sanders +5 (Sanders +11)

vs. Cruz
Urban- Clinton +15, Sanders +27 (Sanders +12)
Suburban- Clinton +3, Sanders +8 (Sanders +5)
Rural- Clinton -11, Sanders +6 (Sanders +17)

vs. Rubio
Urban- Clinton +15, Sanders +31 (Sanders +16)
Suburban- Clinton -4.3, Sanders +5.6 (Sanders +10)
Rural- Clinton -7, Sanders +1 (Sanders +8)

Sure, it's only one poll, but it matches prior data which also showed Sanders doing better against the GOP candidates than Clinton in Wisconsin. So as it stands today, not only is Bernie Sanders more likely to win Wisconsin than Hillary Clinton is, and by a bigger margin, but he’d also win in a broader geographic area, which would be a bigger help for downticket Dems in areas where Scott Walker has lost the confidence of the voters. Yes, there is little to no difference in the City of Milwaukee, but that area already overwhelmingly elects Dems, and so there would be little impact on who represents that area regardless of who is the candidate. And as Sanders becomes better known in the City, his numbers and intensity of voter backing should rise there as well.

Regional and urban vs. rural data from sources such as the Marquette Poll better be discussed when people start talking about “electability” of certain candidates. Because in a place like Wisconsin in February 2016, Bernie Sanders could realign the loyalties of many areas of the state in such a way that it would lead to significant changes in representation at the state and Congressional level. Which means it would be wise for the state's Democratic Party leaders to at the very least latch on to what Bernie is saying, and ignore what the East Coast pundits lecture the rest of the nation on just what is electorally possible in 2016 or what a legislature can do in 2017. These establishment folks do not understand that the potential for big change within some states is very possible. And given how the ALEC agenda has wrecked states like Wisconsin, it is a big change that is needed sooner than later.


  1. Great news, and good work reporting. Thanks.

  2. Way to dig into the numbers. As always, good reporting here that for some reason doesn't make it into the mainstream press. Hmm...

    Northeast WI is definitely turning its back on Walker. A big part of that? It may be the right-to-work legislation. I know it's anecdotal, but I've had many conversations with people in that area where I was told they were very pro-Walker...up until that moment.

    Just my food for thought, again anecdotal observations. Happy Groundhogs Day!

    1. I could see "work for less" playing a role. I also think it's related to the damage becoming apparent to public schools, and maybe Walker's failed run for the presidency made a lot of others realize us crazy Madison liberals were right about this guy all along.

      Thanks for the kind words! Its interesting how most media wont take the 30 mins to dig into the crosstabs. That's where you find the really intriguing numbers.