Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic opponent Mary Burke are tied at 46 percent, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll.
Poll director Charles Franklin said the latest results confirm there has been a “significant tightening of the race.” The previous Marquette poll in March had Walker leading 48 percent to 41 percent, just barely within the margin of error.
Franklin said the tightening could be the result of 32 percent of respondents identifying as Democrats compared with 27 percent in the last survey.
But it’s also likely explained by growing support for Burke among women and younger voters. While Burke and the governor were tied among women in March, Burke now holds an 8-percentage-point lead. She reversed a 9-point Walker advantage among younger voters and is now favored by those under 44 by 10 points. Walker’s support among men has narrowed, also.
“That’s quite a shift,” Franklin said. “The combination of some shift in partisanship and a shift in the voting pattern of men and women and younger versus older voters are certainly part of the story here.”
Those results come as more people say they’re getting to know Burke. In January, 70 percent of poll respondents said they either hadn’t heard enough about her or don’t know if they viewed her favorably or unfavorable. That dropped to 59 percent in March and 51 percent in the new poll.
The 46-46 tie was among registered voters. Among likely voters, the poll found Walker with a 48 percent to 45 percent edge over Burke, a Madison School Board member and former state Commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive. That’s still within the poll’s margin of error.
UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden said the results suggest that a quieter campaign favors Walker while a more vigorous campaign is necessary for Burke to be competitive.
“It is more remarkable that Burke is close to tied with Walker despite half of the electorate saying they don’t have enough information to say whether they view her favorably or unfavorably,” Burden said. “The race still appears to be mostly a referendum on Scott Walker.”
Within an hour of the results being announced, Burke’s campaign issued a fundraising appeal to supporters, calling the poll results “big news.”
Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki said the poll results reflect Burke’s “new direction and clear plan for growing Wisconsin’s economy” in contrast to Walker’s record in which the state’s job growth ranks second worst among 10 Midwestern states.
“Wisconsin voters face a clear choice in this election between two very different approaches,” Zepecki said. “It is clear that voters recognize that Walker’s top down, trickle down approach that puts big corporations and special interests ahead of hard-working Wisconsinites isn’t working.”
Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre countered that under Walker the state has created more than 100,000 jobs and thousands of new businesses, turned a multibillion-dollar budget deficit into a surplus and cut taxes by nearly $2 billion.
“We’re confident voters want to continue moving Wisconsin forward and have no desire to return to the failed policies of the past,” Marre said.
The Marquette poll is the third publicly released poll since early April showing the race is even. The Marquette poll is closely watched in part because it correctly predicted Walker’s margin of victory in the 2012 recall election.
The poll also found:
Walker’s job approval was 49 percent and his disapproval rate was 45 percent. In March, his favorable/unfavorable mix was 47 percent to 48 percent.
Burke’s favorable/unfavorable mix was 27 percent to 22 percent, while 51 percent of respondents had no opinion, down from 57 percent in March and 70 percent in January.
52 percent said Wisconsin was headed in the right direction, while 42 percent said the state is on the wrong track.
Among Democrats, two-thirds would vote for Burke in a primary against Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, and two other lesser-known candidates. Another 3.5 percent would vote for Hulsey, while 17.6 percent are undecided.
Asked if they had a favorable view of Hulsey, nearly 90 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t know enough about him. Only 2.5 percent had a favorable view, while 9.5 percent had an unfavorable view. Yet 39 percent said they would vote for Hulsey over Walker.
The Marquette poll was conducted May 15-18 among 805 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.