With less than a month to go until the election, a new poll showed the presidential and Senate races are essentially tied among likely voters in Wisconsin.
The Marquette Law School Poll revealed President Barack Obama leads former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., 49 to 48 percent. In the Senate race, former Gov. Tommy Thompson is up 46 to 45 percent in his race against Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percentage points.
Interviews for the poll took place between Oct. 11 and 14, prior to the second presidential debate Thursday night.
The poll showed voters likely changed their minds after the first presidential debate, which was regarded by some as a loss for Obama. The 73 percent of likely voters who watched the debate supported Romney 50 to 48 percent, while the rest supported Obama 50 to 42 percent.
“Rarely has a debate produced such large movement in the polls,” poll director Charles Franklin said in a statement. “In September, President Obama held a steady lead, but now the race is a pure tossup, in large measure because of the first debate.”
The poll asked whether voters agreed with the statement that the candidate “cares about people like [them].” Obama’s numbers on that stayed about the same, with 59 percent saying he does care and 38 percent saying he does not. Romney saw “considerable improvement” with a 47-49 percent rating, up from the 39-56 rating he had two weeks ago.
Dietram Scheufele, University of Wisconsin life sciences communication professor, said perceptions of which candidate would win the elections are now shifting.
“Romney was able to build a lot of momentum among his followers and perceptions of momentum,” Scheufele said. “In [this] poll, Wisconsin is all of a sudden in play. This will be a hard-fought battle and among very clear fault lines.”
He said Tuesday’s debate, the second between both candidates, was a “very different” debate, noting the first was characterized by pundits on both sides as a loss by Obama.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Obama campaign spokesperson Gillian Morris said Obama’s “clear [and] balanced” solutions would ensure the president prevails over Romney in November.
“Wisconsin voters will support President Obama in November because they know he’s standing up for Wisconsin’s middle- class families, students and seniors,” Morris said.
UW College Republicans spokesperson Ryan Hughes said voters saw the “stark” contrast between Obama’s “failed policies” and Romney’s economic plan. He added the middle class is currently being “crushed” by Obama’s economic policies.
Obama’s favorable rating is 52 percent and Romney’s is 46 percent. However, neither candidate in the Senate race broke 40 percent. Baldwin’s rating is 32 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while Thompson’s is 37 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable.
Scheufele said the presidential race would likely decide who wins the Senate race, as undecided voters would probably vote for the same party in both races.
“We’ve already seen Senate debates between the two, and they have clearly established their profiles,” Schuefele said. “I think whoever is undecided at this point will be swayed by the presidential race and vote along party lines.”
There will be another debate between Senate candidates Thursday night.