A recent poll suggests although Gov. Scott Walker leads his Democratic contenders in a possible recall election, Wisconsin citizens remain polarized on the recall effort and on recent legislative actions now being implemented.
A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday shows Walker leading six to 10 percentage points over four possible candidates in the potential gubernatorial recall election.
Walker leads over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, former Congressman David Obey and Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, according to the poll. So far, only Falk and Cullen have announced plans to run against Walker.
Walker seems sure of his lead and potential for success against those running against him, Ciara Matthews, spokesperson for the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign, said in a statement.
She said a majority of Wisconsin voters elected Walker and approved of his campaign promise to fix a budget deficit without raising taxes, cutting essential services or laying off public employees.
“Gov. Walker has kept those promises and we are confident that because the positive effects of his reforms continue to create more jobs and keep more money in the pockets of taxpayers, voters will reaffirm the decision they made a year ago,” Matthews said.
Despite Walker’s currently-projected advantage, the size of the lead he holds against his opposing candidates is within the poll’s seven percent margin of error, with the exception of his lead over Cullen.
Since Democrats have not selected a candidate to challenge Walker, Democratic respondents in this poll may be divided, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said. He said once Democrats unite behind a candidate, the race for the gubernatorial seat would be much closer in the polls.
Still, the possible Democratic candidates remain less widely recognized than Walker. When asked to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion on Walker, 95 percent of the respondents could do so, according the poll. However, 61 percent could form an opinion of Barrett, and 18 percent for Cullen. Forty-four percent had a decided opinion for Falk.
“It looks like the Democrats have some work to do in terms of making the public familiar with their candidates,” Barry Burden, a University of Wisconsin political science professor, said in an email to The Badger Herald. “Everyone in Wisconsin has an opinion about Walker, but for three of the four Democrats asked about in the survey, more than half of respondents said they weren’t familiar with the person.”
The poll also noted a strong polarization between the opinion of Republicans and Democrats on Walker’s performance as governor. Republicans reported an 87 percent approval rating for Walker as governor, while 82 percent of Democrats said they disapproved of the job Walker is doing.
There was an almost even split between those who favored and opposed the limits placed on collective bargaining rights for state unions. The poll found 48 percent of respondents in favor of limiting collective bargaining rights with 47 percent standing in opposition.
The poll also showed a similar division on the recently passed concealed carry law. Forty-six percent favored this new law, while 51 percent were opposed.
“[The public] are almost equally divided when it comes to Walker and his policies,” Burden said. “Other attitudes will change as the recall campaign and U.S. Senate campaigns heat up.”