With his favorable numbers rising, Democrat Russ Feingold held a 6-point lead over Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in Wednesday’s Marquette University Law School Poll.
Feingold, a former three-term U.S. senator, was backed by 47% of likely voters compared with Johnson’s 41% support. In last month’s poll, Feingold had a 3-point lead.
In a three-way race that includes Libertarian candidate Phil Anderson, Feingold had 44% support among likely voters, Johnson 39% and Anderson 7%.
The key uptick for Feingold came in the public’s view of the candidates.
Among all registered voters surveyed, Feingold was viewed favorably by 46%, unfavorably by 29%, with 25% lacking an opinion. Last month, 40% had a favorable view of Feingold and 35% had an unfavorable view.
Johnson remained slightly underwater with the voters, with 34% having a favorable view, 36% unfavorable, and 30% saying they couldn’t give an opinion.
With an onslaught of television advertising, and two debates scheduled for next month, the race is still up for grabs. But the trends remain in Feingold’s favor.
“Feingold throughout all of our polling has had a bit of an advantage on favorability, whereas Johnson has been roughly even or a point or two favorable or less favorable,” poll director Charles Franklin said.
Franklin pointed out that Feingold has a “substantial lead” when voters are asked if a candidate cares about them. Fifty percent described Feingold as caring about people like them, while just 36% said the same of Johnson. A new flurry of advertising from Johnson has sought to show him in a more sympathetic and caring light.
In reacting to the poll, the two campaigns expressed themes they have been pushing for months.
The Johnson spin: “This race remains as tight as ever and as Wisconsinites realize that Senator Feingold says one thing and does another on every single issue, we are confident that they will choose to support a manufacturer from Oshkosh instead of a 34-year career politician,” Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger said.
The Feingold spin: ”Russ is maintaining a consistent lead in the polls because he’s prioritizing the concerns of middle class and working families across Wisconsin. Wisconsinites know that instead of protecting corporations and multimillionaires like Senator Johnson has done for years, Russ actually listens to Wisconsin’s families and will fight for their needs,” Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler said.
For the first time, the survey sought to gauge voter views on the integrity of the ballot. In recent years, Republican governors and legislatures here and elsewhere have enacted voter identification laws that they say will cut down on voter fraud. Democrats say the laws are a form of voter suppression, especially against minorities and younger people.
The poll asked respondents two questions. How many people who are not legally eligible to vote do you think will cast a vote illegally? How many people who are legally eligible to vote do you think will not be allowed to vote because they lack proper identification?
Twenty-seven percent said they thought there would be fewer than 10 illegal ballots cast statewide; 18% said it would be between 10 and 100; 18% said it would be between 100 and 1,000; 14% said it would be between 1,000 and 10,000; 6% said it would be between 10,000 and 100,000; while 3% said it would be more than 100,000.
On the question of how many legal voters would be prevented from voting, 15% said fewer than 10 people; 15% said between 10 and 100; 23% said between 100 and 1,000; 17% said between 1,000 and 10,000; 12% said between 10,000; and 100,000 and 5% said more than 100,000.
Franklin said the figures showed that 37% believe more legal votes are prevented than illegal votes cast, 26% said the two are equal and 18% said more illegal votes are cast than legal votes prevented.
“Substantially more people think that more people will be disenfranchised, prevented from voting, than believe more illegal ballots will be cast,” Franklin said.
Scot Ross, of the liberal One Wisconsin Now, objected strenuously to the inclusion of the questions in the poll. The group has successfully gone to court to fight Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
“That an allegedly independent poll would perpetuate the GOP-created myth of voter fraud with such an obviously loaded question to generate media headlines for a specific political agenda is irresponsible and troubling in the extreme,” Ross said.
On the issue of what the United States should do about the Islamic State, 30% said air power should be used, 42% said air power and ground troops should be used.
Thirty-seven percent said the Iraq War was worth the cost, while 57% said it was not.
Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval was 43%, with 52% disapproving of his performance. Fifty-four percent approved of President Barack Obama’s job performance, while 41% disapproved.
The survey of 802 registered Wisconsin was conducted Thursday through Sunday. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 4.4%. The margin of error for the sample of 677 likely voters was plus or minus 4.8%.
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