Monday, February 8, 2016

Today's Wisconsin polls show Sanders, not Clinton, is best for Dem electability

A couple of interesting reads on Wisconsin polls hit Wisconsin’s two largest newspapers over the weekend. The first was Saturday’s installment from Craig Gilbert’s “Wisconsin Voter” series in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and it went in-depth on in-state polls regarding the Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Gilbert quotes Marquette Law Poll director Charles Franklin, who points out the geographic and demographic differences between Clinton and Sanders in the state polls. Gilbert admits that these numbers likely understate Sanders’ current support, because it consolidates the last 4 months of polls, during which Sanders has closed the gap on Clinton from 12 points last September to 2 points in the most recent poll that was released last week.
In Wisconsin, the byproduct of these political and demographic fault lines is a regional one. The Madison TV market is the only part of the state where Sanders has enjoyed a clear edge over Clinton in recent months, boosted by his strength among young and very liberal voters. But in the city of Milwaukee, Clinton has led Sanders by an average of more than 30 points, reflecting her strength among African-Americans and older and more moderate white Democrats. It made perfect sense that Sanders' first Wisconsin stop last year was Madison and Clinton's was Milwaukee.

The polling numbers reflect "divisions on age and ideology, especially, and race to some extent, and how that's embedded in our geography," Franklin said. "You see it dividing up right along I-94 between the state's two strong Democratic bastions."

Those two areas alone won't determine the outcome of the Wisconsin primary if the race is still going strong in April. "The rest of the state really does matter," Franklin said.
Hold onto that point about “the rest of the state” while we go into our second poll-related story, mentioned as part an in-depth Wisconsin State Journal story on Sunday from Matt DeFour regarding Gov Walker’s taxpayer-funded propaganda “listening tours.” Those closed-to-the-public events started in light of his plummeting approval, and as DeFour notes, Franklin’s Marquette Law School Poll showed serious deterioration in Walker’s support in the non-urban, non-Democratic vote (urban Dems already disapproved of him).
Among Republicans Walker’s approval level dipped from 92.5 percent in fall 2014 to 84.2 percent more recently.

Walker’s support has plummeted the most among self-described independents and independents who “lean Republican.” Among the latter group his approval level fell 22.3 points to 60.9 percent, though Franklin noted those voters are more likely than self-described independents — whose approval of Walker dropped 19 points to 23.2 percent — to vote for Walker if he runs again.

Walker also has seen his support evaporate in the northern part of the state, where his approval level is down 21.2 points, and the Fox Valley region, where it is down 16.5 points. In the conservative stronghold of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, Walker’s approval level is down 10 points to 54.9 percen
The one place his approval level increased over the past year, by 5 points to 28.5 percent, was in Milwaukee County, though Franklin noted the increase was not statistically significant because of a smaller sample size. In September Walker signed a bill committing $80 million from the state over 20 years to a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, a move that was panned by some conservative groups.
The article also comes with some telling graphics, including this one that reiterates those geographic drops in approval in the northern half of the state, along with a noticeable drop among middle and upper-class Wisconsinites.

Now let’s go back to the Democratic presidential race, and the most recent Marquette Poll on the subject, which showed Clinton leading Sanders 45-43. Now note this breakdown across the various geographies of the state, among people who said they planned to vote in the Dem primary.

Clinton vs. Sanders, Wisconsin Jan 2016
Urban Clinton 48-38
Suburban Sanders 52-38
Rural Clinton 48-40

City of Milwaukee Clinton 65-23
Rest of MKE market Clinton 45-44
Madison market Sanders 55-31
GB/Appleton market Clinton 48-40
Rest of state Clinton 47-45

Relatively tight outside of the bases of Madison and the City of Milwaukee, isn’t it? But here’s where Clinton’s “electability” argument gets turned on its head, because in those same areas of GB/Appleton, the rest of the state, and the rural parts of Wisconsin where Hillary has a slight lead, Sanders does noticeably better against GOP opponents. Let me rerun these figures that I referenced in a post a week ago.

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)

In other words, those swing areas of the state, the ones which will decide the Dem primary and go a long way toward deciding the final outcome in November, are areas that Hillary Clinton wins the primary in for now, but Bernie Sanders does significantly better in for the general election. And those are the same areas that Scott Walker has suffered his biggest drop in approval over the last year.

So it seems obvious to me that in February 2016, there is one Democratic candidate that would be the most likely to win Wisconsin in November, and help the downticket rural and northern Wisconsin areas that must be swung toward the Dems in order for them to get power in the Legislature and gain seats in Congress. And unlike what the “professionals” try to spin to you (you know, the same ones who thought a bland Mary Burke campaign was the “most electable” strategy in Wisconsin in 2014), that candidate wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton, but instead is Bernie Sanders.

Take a look at those articles and those poll numbers, and show me how I’m wrong by saying Bernie's more electable and better for Dem prospects in Wisconsin. Not based on “Well, this may happen or the Republicans will say this” (bad assumptions as well, by the way) but based on the polling numbers themselves. Go ahead, try!


  1. Wisconsin Dems operate under the assumption that they vote five points more progressive than the nation as a whole in the Dem primary. This figure will increase this cycle. Hillary is in a downward slope, and the only reason strategists and surrogates (like Chris Matthews) keep asserting Clinton-as-best-nominee is they want a coronation for a corporatist, not a FDR-Ike-LBJ-like president who worked the last 50-some years as a civil rights activist.

  2. Thanks for showing those numbers and explaining their significance. The "electability" story so far has been based on pure speculation, yet it does play into how people vote in the primary.

    Walker is clearly headed downward, the same direction that he and WisGOP have taken Wisconsin's quality of life and economy. This has happened as they have followed the neoliberal playbook, which the Clintons have stuck with, and Mary Burke would also have.

    I think people realize that, and it would benefit voters to go with someone who wasn't stuck in that mindset. Sanders will attract people to the Democratic Party who have never been interested in politics, as well as those who have given up on it. And it would help our DPW to win elections by having candidates who run that better reflect the Sanders sensibility.