Marquette Law School Poll: Inflation Fears Up, Pandemic Fears Down
Targeted News Service (Press Releases)
A new Marquette Law School Poll survey of state voters finds that about half of both Republican and Democratic voters say they don't know whom they support in the races for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate and the Republican nomination for governor.
Small percentages of voters have opinions about any of the candidates with two exceptions. Even in the case of those two candidates, no more than half of voters have an opinion, favorable or unfavorable.
The poll finds 51% of registered voters saying they don't know whom they will support in the Republican primary for governor or the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Forty-six percent say they support one of the current candidates, with the remainder saying they won't vote in a primary or will vote for someone else or declining to say.
It is not unusual to see half of registered voters undecided with more than five months to go before the primary, but the high percentage of undecided is a vivid reminder that the primaries are not uppermost in voters' minds at this point. Among those who say they are "very enthusiastic" about voting this year, 53% have a primary-vote choice, but 43% say they don't know whom they will support. Among those less enthusiastic about voting, 35% have a chosen candidate and 63% don't know whom they will support.
This poll interviewed 802 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone Feb. 22-27, 2022. The margin of error is +/-3.8 percentage points for the full sample. Some items were asked of half the sample. Primary-vote choices have a sample size of 363 for the Republican primary and 354 for the Democratic primary, with margins of error of +/-5.8 and +/-5.7 for the Republican and Democratic primaries respectively. Republican primary voters include Republicans and independents who lean Republican plus independents who do not lean to either party but who say they will vote in the Republican primary; similarly for "Democratic primary voters."
Republican and Democratic primary voters are about equally unsure of their primary preferences. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, 54% are unsure of their choice, and 48% of Democratic voters unsure of their U.S. Senate primary vote.
The candidates are not yet familiar to most voters. Table 1 shows the percentage of voters who say they haven't heard enough or can't give a favorable or unfavorable opinion with respect to each Republican primary candidate. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best known, although half of voters are unable to say if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her. Some 80% lack an opinion of Kevin Nicholson, and 86% are unable to rate Tim Ramthun. The candidates are only a little better known among Republicans and independents who say they will vote in the Republican primary, as shown in Table 2.
Table 1: Name recognition and favorability of Republican candidates, among all registered voters
Table 2: Name recognition and favorability of Republican candidates, among Republicans and independents voting in the Republican primary
Kleefisch and Nicholson have run for political office previously and were better known during those campaigns. Table 3 shows Kleefisch's favorability in Marquette Law School Poll surveys since 2012, and Table 4 shows Nicholson's ratings during his 2018 primary campaign for U.S. Senate.
Table 3: Trend in Kleefisch name recognition and favorability, among all registered voters
Table 4: Trend in Nicholson name recognition and favorability, among all registered voters
Among Democratic primary candidates, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is the best known, followed by Alex Lasry, although both are unfamiliar to more than 60% of registered voters, as shown in Table 5. Table 6 shows familiarity and favorability among Democrats and independents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary.
Table 5: Name recognition and favorability of Democratic candidates, among all registered voters
Table 6: Name recognition and favorability of Democratic candidates, among Democrats and independents voting in the Democratic primary
Barnes' familiarity and favorability have been measured in four Marquette polls since 2018, with the trend shown in Table 7.
Table 7: Trend in Barnes' name recognition and favorability, among all registered voters
Primary vote choice
The best-known candidates are leading their respective primaries at this early stage of the campaign. Among Republicans and independents who say they will vote in the Republican primary, Rebecca Kleefisch is the choice of 30%, Kevin Nicholson is preferred by 8%, Tim Ramthun is supported by 5%, and 54% say they don't know whom they will vote for. Table 8 shows all response categories.
Table 8: Vote choice in Republican gubernatorial primary, among Republicans and independents who say they will vote in the Republican primary
In the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Mandela Barnes is supported by 23%, Alex Lasry is supported by 13%, Tom Nelson is the choice of 5%, and Sarah Godlewski is preferred by 3%. The full set of candidate preferences is shown in Table 9.
Table 9: Vote choice in Democratic gubernatorial primary, among Democrats and independents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary, by percentage (*=less than .5%)
Forty-three percent of voters approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing, 52% disapprove, and 3% say they don't know. The trend in Biden's approval is shown in Table 10.
Table 10: Biden approval trend, August 2021-February 2022
Gov. Tony Evers' job approval stands at 50%, while 41% disapprove. When last measured in October 2021, 45% approved and 46% disapproved. The trend in Evers' job approval is shown in Table 11.
Table 11: Evers approval trend, January 2019-February 2022
The Wisconsin legislature has a job approval rate of 37%, while 46% disapprove and 16% say they don't know. The trend in approval of the legislature is shown in Table 12.
Table 12: Approval of the Wisconsin legislature trend, January 2019-February 2022
Sen. Ron Johnson is viewed favorably by 33% of voters and unfavorably by 45%, with 21% saying they haven't heard enough or don't know. The trend in favorability for Johnson since 2019 is shown in Table 13.
Table 13: Johnson favorability trend, January 2019-February 2022
Sen. Tammy Baldwin is rated favorably by 42% of voters and unfavorably by 36%, with 21% lacking an opinion of her. The trend in favorability to Baldwin since 2019 is shown in Table 14.
Table 14: Baldwin favorability trend, January 2019-February 2022
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is not well-known statewide, despite his position and tenure as a legislative leader. This is in part a reflection of the fact that each member of the 99-seat Assembly represents just over 1% of the state population and is seldom well-known outside his or her district. Overall, 13% of Wisconsin voters have a favorable view of Vos, 28% have an unfavorable opinion, and 59% say they haven't heard enough or don't know. The trend in favorability to Vos is shown in Table 15.
Table 15: Vos favorability trend, January 2019-February 2022
Unfavorability to Vos among Republicans and independents has increased a bit since 2019. The trends by party are shown in Table 16.
Table 16: Vos favorability by party trend, January 2019-February 2022
Favorability to former President Donald Trump is at 36%, with an unfavorable opinion at 57% and 5% not expressing an opinion. Trump's favorability trend is shown in Table 17.
Table 17: Trump favorability trend, January 2019-February 2022
Direction of the state
Thirty-nine percent of voters say the state of Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, while 53% say it is on the wrong track. In October 2021, 41% said it was moving in the right direction and 51% said it was on the wrong track. Negative views rose sharply in 2021 and have remained little changed. The trend in this opinion is shown in Table 18.
Table 18: Right direction or wrong track trend, January 2019-February 2022
There is a high level of concern over inflation, with 68% saying they are very concerned and 28% saying they are somewhat concerned. Only 4% are not too concerned or not at all concerned about inflation. Worries about inflation rose from August to October 2021, and are up slightly in February 2022, as shown in Table 19.
Table 19: Concern over inflation trend, August 2021-February 2022
Thirty-one percent said they are very concerned about unemployment, with 35% somewhat concerned, 20% not too concerned, and 13% not at all concerned. This question was not asked earlier. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 2.8% in December 2021, the most recent available estimate before this survey.
Concern over illegal immigration has fluctuated but is currently about the same as in August 2021. The full trend is shown in Table 20.
Table 20: Concern over illegal immigration trend, August 2021-February 2022
Concern over the coronavirus "here in Wisconsin" was lower than for the economic issues, with 27% saying they were very concerned, 34% somewhat concerned, 21% not too concerned, and 18% not at all concerned.
Concern about the coronavirus pandemic was asked concerning "the United States" rather than "here in Wisconsin" in earlier surveys. That previous trend is shown in Table 21.
Table 21: Concern over coronavirus in United States trend, March 2020-October 2021
The decision to close businesses and schools in 2020 due to the coronavirus is seen as an appropriate response by 61% but as an overreaction by 35%. The initial reaction was overwhelming support, which has declined over time, as shown in Table 22.
Table 22: View of closing schools and businesses due to coronavirus trend, March 2020-February 2022
Fifty-three percent say they trust Evers as a source of information about the virus either "a great deal" or "a fair amount," while 43% say they trust him not much or not at all. Thirty-one percent trust Johnson "a great deal" or "a fair amount" for coronavirus information, with 61% saying they trust him "not much" or "not at all." The full set of response options for October 2021 and February 2022 is shown in Table 23 for Evers and Table 24 for Johnson.
Table 23: Trust Evers for coronavirus information trend, October 2021-February 2022
Table 24: Trust Johnson for coronavirus information trend, October 2021-February 2022
The question of who should have the biggest role in determining public school curriculum produces varied answers, with 35% saying parents, 33% saying teachers, 13% saying school boards, and 9% saying superintendents and principals. Five percent say state legislators should have the major role in curriculum.
On this issue, there is a divide along party lines, with Republicans and independents giving parents the larger role and Democrats assigning it to teachers, as shown in Table 25.
Table 25: Who should play biggest role in school curriculum, by party, February 2022
A policy of "allowing all students statewide to use publicly funded vouchers to attend private or religious schools" is supported by 59% and opposed by 37%. When last asked in August 2020, the question was worded as to whether a respondent agreed or disagreed with a policy to "provide tax-funded vouchers to be used for private or religious schools." At that time, 41% agreed with providing vouchers, and 49% disagreed with the policy.
A majority of respondents, 55%, say public schools are in worse shape than a few years ago, while 29% say they are in about the same shape, and 9% say they are better now. In August 2018, 44% said schools had gotten worse, 34% said they were about the same, and 15% said schools had gotten better.
Asked their opinion of the standards for education in Wisconsin schools, 47% of voters say the standards are lower than they should be, 31% say they are about where they should be, and 12% say they are higher than they should be. This is little changed from January 2014, when 47% said standards were too low, 32% said they were where they should be, and 15% said standards were too high.
Confidence in the 2020 election
Among all registered voters, 67% are very or somewhat confident the votes were accurately cast and counted in the 2020 election, while 31% are not too or not at all confident in the election accuracy. There are large partisan divisions shown in Table 26, but also some differences between Republicans and independents who lean Republican.
Table 26: Confidence in the accuracy of the 2020 election by party, February 2022
There has been a decline in skepticism among Republicans since August 2021, while independents who lean Republican have remained evenly split. Independents who do not lean to a party became more skeptical of the election between August and October and then changed little in February. Democrats and independents who lean Democratic are overwhelmingly confident in the election accuracy. Table 27 shows these trends.
Table 27: Confidence in the accuracy of the 2020 election, by party trend, August 2021-February 2022
Support for legalization of marijuana has grown since the question was first asked in 2013, with 61% in favor of legalization and 31% opposed now. The trend is shown in Table 28.
Table 28: Legalization of marijuana trend, October 2013-February 2022
Support for legalization of marijuana has grown in each partisan group since 2013, with a slim majority of Republicans now supporting legalization, as shown in Table 29.
Table 29: Legalization of marijuana, by party identification trend, October 2013-February 2022
About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This survey interviewed 802 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone Feb. 22-27, 2022. The margin of error is +/-3.8 percentage points for the full sample.
Primary-vote choices have a sample size of 363 for the Republican primary and 354 for the Democratic primary, with margins of error of +/-5.8 and +/-5.7 for the Republican and Democratic primaries respectively. Republican primary voters include Republicans and independents who lean Republican plus independents who do not lean to either party but who say they will vote in the Republican primary; similarly for "Democratic primary voters."
Some issue items were asked of half the sample. Those on Form A were asked of 400 and have a margin of error of +/-5.5 percentage points. Form B items were asked of 402 and have a margin of error of +/-5.4 percentage points.
Items asked of half-samples included on Form A concern for inflation, unemployment, illegal immigration, and coronavirus, plus opinion of school and business closures in 2020. Form B items included marijuana legalization, school curriculum, vouchers, whether schools had gotten better or worse, and whether school standards are too high or not high enough.
Favorability to some primary candidates was also asked of half the sample. These candidates were Battino, Olikara, Murphy, Lee, Lewis, Peckarsky, Rumbaugh and Williams. These items have a sample size of 400 or 402 cases and a margin of error of +/-5.5 percentage points.
The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 44% Republican, 43% Democratic, and 13% independent. The partisan makeup of the sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 27% Republican, 25% Democratic, and 47% independent.
Since January 2020, the long-term partisan balance, including those who lean to a party, in the Marquette poll has been 45% Republican and 44 % Democratic, with 9% independent. Partisanship exuding those who lean has been 29% Republican and 28 % Democratic, with 41% independent.