New Marquette Law School Poll finds some issues less divisive amid continuing partisan divide

January 24, 2019


Special education increases and accepting more federal Medicaid money are drawing broader support than many other current issues

Please note: Complete poll results and methodology information can be found online at law.marquette.edu/poll

MILWAUKEE — Just as there is a partisan split at the top of Wisconsin’s state government, partisan divisions remain a key fact of public opinion in Wisconsin, according to a new Marquette Law School Poll.

The first poll since the November election finds voters split generally along party lines on state issues such as whether Wisconsin should drop out of a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, increase the minimum wage or prioritize increasing school spending over holding down property taxes.

However, opinion on some issues was less divided, including support for having legislative district boundaries be determined by a nonpartisan commission, support for increases in state funding for special education and support for Wisconsin’s accepting federal money to expand Medicaid.

In other state issues: Determining a plan to pay for road improvements that attracts majority support remains a challenge. And many voters have not yet reached an opinion, favorable or unfavorable, on new Gov. Tony Evers or other new statewide officeholders.

On national issues, a majority oppose a border wall with Mexico, and more voters blame President Donald Trump than congressional Democrats for the partial shutdown of the federal government. A majority also say there is not enough cause to begin impeachment hearings against Trump.

The poll was conducted January 16-20, 2019. The sample included 800 registered voters in Wisconsin, interviewed by cell phone or landline, with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. Ten questions were asked of half the sample. Questions on Form A have a sample size of 399 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. Questions on Form B have a sample size of 401 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. The half-sample items are listed at the end of this release.

Forty-eight percent of registered voters think that Wisconsin should withdraw from a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, while 42 percent think that the state should continue to participate in the suit. Nine percent say they do not have an opinion.

A majority, 62 percent, say the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, which is called Badgercare in Wisconsin, while 25 percent oppose the expansion, and 12 percent say they do not know.

Views on the Affordable Care Act lawsuit are sharply divided along partisan lines, with 75 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican (hereafter “Republicans including leaners”) saying the state should continue in the lawsuit, while 20 percent want the state to withdraw. Among Democrats including leaners, 11 percent would continue in the suit, while 81 percent want the state to withdraw. Among independents who do not lean to a party, 32 percent want to continue and 39 percent want to withdraw from the suit. Twenty-four percent of independents say they have no opinion on the lawsuit, as do 5 percent of Republicans including leaners and 7 percent of Democrats including leaners.

Partisans are less divided on expanding Medicaid. Among Republicans including leaners, 43 percent say the state should expand Medicaid coverage while 41 percent reject the expansion. Among Democrats including leaners, 88 percent support the expansion while 7 percent oppose it. Among independents who do not lean to a party, 55 percent support the expansion while 28 percent oppose expanding Medicaid. Seventeen percent of independents and 16 percent of Republicans including leaners say they do not have an opinion, while 5 percent of Democrats including leaners are without an opinion.

Fifty-five percent of respondents prefer increasing spending on K-12 public schools, while 39 percent say they prefer reducing property taxes. Sixty-two percent of Republicans including leaners prefer reducing property taxes, while 32 percent support increased school spending. Among Democrats including leaners, 18 percent prefer reduced taxes, while 76 percent favor additional spending on schools. Thirty-six percent of independents prefer lower taxes and 57 percent prefer increased spending on schools.

Majorities across partisan groups support a major increase in state aid for special education. Overall, 73 percent favor such an increase, with 20 percent opposed. Among Republicans including leaners, 62 percent support and 30 percent oppose increased aid for special education. Among Democrats including leaners, 89 percent support and 7 percent oppose more spending for special education. Among independents, 65 percent support and 25 percent oppose more such spending.

Voters are reluctant to raise taxes and fees for roads and highways. Fifty-two percent prefer to keep gas taxes and fees where they are, while 42 percent favor increasing taxes and fees to pay for increased spending on roads. Among Republicans including leaners, 69 percent oppose a tax and fee increase for highway spending, while 27 percent favor such an increase. Thirty-six percent of Democrats including leaners oppose raising taxes and fees to increase spending on roads, while 58 percent favor it. Among independents, 51 percent oppose a tax and fee increase and 34 percent support an increase.

Fifty-five percent of respondents say that they support increasing the minimum wage in Wisconsin, while 39 percent oppose raising it. Thirty-two percent of Republicans including leaners favor an increase, while 64 percent are opposed. Among Democrats including leaners, 82 percent favor raising the minimum wage and 9 percent are opposed. Fifty percent of independents favor an increase and 43 percent are opposed.

Criminal justice reform
Voters are willing to consider releasing some prisoners before they have completed their full sentence, but support depends on how much of the sentence has been served. Half the sample was asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Once a prisoner has served at least half of their sentence, they should be released from prison and given a less costly form of punishment if they can demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to society.” The other half of those polled were asked a question that specified release after two-thirds of the sentence was completed. For those asked about release after half of the sentence was served, 42 percent agreed with early release while 43 percent opposed early release. When the time served was set at two-thirds of the sentence, 51 percent supported early release and 34 percent were opposed.

Redistricting
Seventy-two percent of voters say they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts to be done by a nonpartisan commission, while 18 percent prefer redistricting be done by the legislature and governor. Majorities in each partisan group favor a nonpartisan commission for redistricting, with 63 percent of Republicans including leaners, 83 percent of Democrats including leaners, and 76 percent of independents favoring a nonpartisan commission. Less than 30 percent of each group preferred redistricting be done by the legislature and governor, with support for the current system coming from 27 percent of Republicans including leaners, 10 percent of Democrats including leaners, and 10 percent of independents.

Marijuana legalization
Fifty-nine percent of respondents say that use of marijuana should be made legal, while 35 percent oppose legalization. When this question was last asked in September 2014, 46 percent favored legalization and 51 percent were opposed.

An alternative wording of the question produced similar results. When asked if marijuana should be “fully legalized and regulated like alcohol,” 58 percent favored legalization and 36 percent opposed.

Lame-duck legislation
Fifteen percent of voters strongly approve of the limits placed on the governor and attorney general by the lame-duck session of the legislature, with 16 percent approving somewhat. Forty-one percent strongly disapprove and 14 percent disapprove somewhat. Fourteen percent lack an opinion.

Concerning former Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to sign the lame duck legislation, 18 percent strongly approve, 15 percent somewhat approve, 11 percent somewhat disapprove and 41 percent strongly disapprove. Fourteen percent lack an opinion.

After leaving office, Walker said in interviews that he might consider a future run for office in Wisconsin. Thirty-seven percent say they would like to see him run for governor or senator in 2022, while 53 percent say they do not want him to run.

Cooperation between governor and legislature
Forty-seven percent say that Gov. Tony Evers is trying to cooperate with Wisconsin legislative leaders, while 25 percent say Evers really is not interested in cooperating. Twenty-eight percent say they do not know.

Twenty-two percent of respondents say Wisconsin legislative leaders are trying to cooperate with Evers, while 46 percent say the leaders are not really interested in cooperating. Thirty-two percent say they do not know.

National issues
Forty-four percent of respondents favor building a wall along the border with Mexico, while 51 percent oppose the wall. In March 2017, when the question was first asked, 37 percent favored and 59 percent opposed building a wall. When asked most recently, in August 2018, 41 percent favored and 54 percent opposed building a wall.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents support the partial shutdown of the federal government over the issue of funding a border wall, with 66 percent opposed to the shutdown. Fifty-five percent of Republicans including leaners support the shutdown, while 41 percent oppose it. Five percent of Democrats including leaners support the shutdown, while 92 percent oppose it. Among independents, 25 percent support the shutdown, with 69 percent opposed.

Respondents were asked, “Regardless of how you feel about the shutdown, who do you think is most responsible for it?” Forty-three percent say Trump, 7 percent say Republicans in Congress, 34 percent say Democrats in Congress and 14 percent say all are equally responsible.

Opinions of President Trump
Forty-four percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52 percent disapprove. When last asked October 24-28, 2018, 47 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.

Forty-two percent say the phrase “cares about people like me” describes Trump, while 55 percent say this does not describe him. When last asked in August 2018, 39 percent said “cares about people like me” described Trump and 57 percent said it did not.

Thirty-one percent say “honest” describes Trump, while 62 percent say this does not describe him. When last asked in June 2017, 35 percent said “honest” described Trump and 59 percent said it did not.

Twenty percent say Trump has changed the Republican party for the better, 44 percent say he has changed it for the worse, and 31 percent say he has not changed the party either way. In late October 2018, 28 percent said he had changed the party for the better, 47 percent said he had changed it for the worse, and 21 percent said he had not changed the party either way.

Asked if there is “enough cause right now” for Congress to begin hearings on whether to impeach Trump, 33 percent say there is enough cause and 59 percent say there is not enough cause to begin hearings.

Among all registered voters, 27 percent say they would definitely vote to reelect Trump if the 2020 elections were held today, 12 percent say they would probably vote to reelect him. Eight percent would probably vote for someone else and 49 percent would definitely vote for someone else.

Democratic presidential primary outlook
Democrats and independents were asked about eight announced and potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. With more than a year to go until the Wisconsin presidential primary, many of these candidates are little known to voters.

For each candidate, respondents were asked if this would be a top choice for them, an acceptable choice, someone they would not support, or if they did not know enough about them yet. The results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Opinion of potential Democratic candidates

  Top Choice Acceptable Not support Not heard enough
Joe Biden 32 44 16 7
Bernie Sanders 23 38 28 9
Elizabeth Warren 15 36 17 30
Kamala Harris 8 23 11 54
Cory Booker 8 24 8 56
Beto O’Rourke 12 21 8 56
Amy Klobuchar 5 20 8 62
Julian Castro 4 16 10 65

State of the state
Fifty-seven percent of Wisconsin registered voters see the state as headed in the right direction, while 33 percent think the state is off on the wrong track. In late October 2018, 55 percent said right direction and 40 percent said wrong track.

In the first Marquette Law School Poll since he took office, Evers’ job approval among registered voters stands at 39 percent, with 22 percent disapproving and 38 percent saying they do not have an opinion.

The Wisconsin legislature has a 52-percent approval rating, with 31 percent disapproval and 16 percent without an opinion.

Evers is viewed favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 24 percent. Another 28 percent say they have not heard enough about him, and 6 percent say they do not know.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is viewed favorably by 13 percent and unfavorably by 17 percent, with 59 percent saying they have not heard enough about him and 11 percent saying they do not know.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is viewed favorably by 24 percent and unfavorably by 19 percent, with 47 percent saying they have not heard enough about him and 10 percent saying they do not know.

For Attorney General Josh Kaul, 16 percent have a favorable view and 7 percent have an unfavorable view. Sixty-seven percent say they have not heard enough about him and 10 percent say they do not know.

For Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the numbers are 16 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable, 67 percent who say they have not heard enough about him, and 9 percent who say they do not know.

About the Marquette Law School Poll
The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 800 registered Wisconsin voters by landline or cell phone, January 16-20, 2019. The margin of error is +/-3.9 percentage points for the full sample.

Ten issue questions were asked of half the sample. Questions on Form A have a sample size of 399 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. Questions on Form B have a sample size of 401 and a margin of error of +/- 5.5 percentage points. Form A items include marijuana legalization, early prison release after half of sentence, possible Walker candidacy in 2022, preference for property tax cuts or more school spending, and preference for holding gas tax and fees at current level or increasing them to pay for roads. Form B items include marijuana legalization (with regulation like alcohol), early prison release after two-thirds of sentence, expansion of Medicaid, minimum wage increase and an increase in aid for special education.

The partisan makeup of the sample, including those who lean to a party, is 45 percent Republican, 43 percent Democratic and 11 percent independent. The long-term total for the previous 50 statewide Marquette polls, with 44,952 respondents, is 43 percent Republican and 47 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup of the current sample, excluding those who lean to a party, is 29 percent Republican, 28 percent Democratic and 42 percent independent, compared to the long-term totals of 28 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 40 percent independent.

The entire questionnaire, methodology statement, full results and breakdowns by demographic groups are available at law.marquette.edu/poll/results-and-data.


About Christopher Stolarski


Christopher Stolarski

Chris is an associate director of university communication in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Chris at (414) 288-1988 or christopher.stolarski@marquette.edu