The Loras College Poll

Walker polarizing, and Feingold leads in Senate rematch against Johnson, Loras College Poll finds


Walker polarizing, and Feingold leads in Senate rematch against Johnson, Loras College Poll finds

DUBUQUE, Iowa — As part of its inaugural survey of Wisconsin voters, the Loras College Poll asked 1,000 registered voters for their assessment of the job performance of both President Barack Obama and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as well as about who they would likely support in the November U.S. Senate rematch between Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson.

Registered voters were also asked about their support for free trade agreements and the Senate’s consideration, or lack thereof, of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. This first Loras Poll of Wisconsin was conducted March 28 and 29, and included 832 likely primary voters.

Job approval: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and President Barack Obama
While a majority, 54 percent, of registered voters in the state disapprove of Walker, they were evenly divided on their assessment of Obama. Unsurprisingly, partisans view the officeholders quite differently, with Republicans supportive of Walker and Democrats critical of the governor. Those surveyed were asked if they “definitely” or “somewhat” approved or disapproved of the governor’s job performance, or were undecided. The information below aggregates the responses of “definitely” and “somewhat” by approval and disapproval. Complete breakdowns are provided in the toplines and crosstabs available at:

Job approval Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Approve 43 percent
Disapprove 54 percent
Undecided 3 percent

Unlike some other prominent Republicans, Walker made his primary preference known with his endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz over Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. While Walker may remain something of a divisive figure in the Wisconsin as a whole, he remains popular with the Republican base in the state. Among the self-identified Republicans polled, 84 percent indicated they approved of Walker’s job performance. Looking specifically at those indicating they would be voting in the April 5 Republican primary, 79 percent approved of Walker’s job performance. Five percent of Cruz supporters indicated that they disapproved of Walker, whereas over five times as many Trump supporters (27 percent) indicated that they disapproved of Walker.

In the end, Republican primary voters tended to think highly of Walker. The exact impact of Trump’s criticism of Walker cannot be fully measured here, but the poll data suggest that there was little to be gained by criticizing Walker in the waning days of the primary campaign. Given Walker’s strong approval ratings among Republicans, Trump’s attacks on the governor left some puzzled about the effectiveness of such a strategy.

“Attacking Walker right before the Republican primary while the governor has such a high approval rating amongst Republicans defies reason,” said Katie O’Brien, a student researcher with the Loras College Poll.

There is no doubt that Walker remains divisive among partisans as 90 percent of self-identified Democrats indicated their disapproval of him, with 80 percent of those saying they definitely disapprove of the governor’s performance in office. Fifty-seven percent of self-identified independents disapproved of Walker.

Job approval President Barack ObamaUntitled

Approve 48 percent
Disapprove 48 percent
Undecided 3 percent

While registered voters were evenly split in the appraisal of Obama’s job performance, there is no doubt that partisanship impacted these appraisals, as with Walker. Eighty-nine percent of self-identified Democrats polled approve of Obama’s job performance, while a total 92 percent of Republicans disapprove. Republican disapproval of the president is intense as 78 percent indicate they “definitely” disapprove of the President, whereas 14 percent say they “somewhat” disapprove of his performance in office.

Senate rematch

While the dust has settled on the Wisconsin Primary, and senators Cruz and Bernie Sanders have claimed big victories in the Badger State, the presidential nomination fight turns to even larger delegate prizes such as the New York Primary on April 19. While the presidential candidates have left Wisconsin, an important battle in the war for the control of the U.S. Senate is brewing. The rematch of the 2010 election between Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold promises to be a hard fought, and expensive, affair. Unlike 2010, this time Johnson is the incumbent against the challenger Feingold.

Candidate preference          U.S. Senate Race

Russ Feingold 48 percent
Ron Johnson 39 percent
Unsure 12 percent

“We are a long way from November, but our recent poll of registered voters in Wisconsin paints a positive picture for Feingold as he makes his bid to retake his Senate seat,” said Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and director of the Loras College Poll.

Supreme Court nomination

The Loras Poll also asked Wisconsin registered voters their opinion on whether the Senate should take action now on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee judge Merrick Garland, or should it wait for the next president’s nominee. With the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia, Obama has the rare chance to nominate a replacement in the final year of a presidential term. The election year nomination of a Supreme Court justice has created a political showdown between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate as the ideological balance of the Supreme Court is up for grabs. Senate GOP leaders have publicly stated that they will not hold a confirmation hearing on Garland.

Senate should consider U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Merrick Garland now or wait for next president

Consider Nomination Now 57 percent
Wait for Next President 36 percent
Unsure 7 percent

Senate should consider Garland nomination now—by party identification

Republican 24 percent
Democrat 87 percent
Independent 58 percent

Senate should wait to consider nomination until after election—by party identification

Republican 68 percent
Democrat 8     percent
Independent 35 percent

The poll results show that partisanship certainly colors how voters view what the Senate should do with Garland’s nomination. Republicans believe that the Senate should not consider the nomination, while Democrats believe that the Senate should act now.

“The results among Wisconsin registered voters show a strong political divide on the Senate’s actions,” said Blake Gibney, a student researcher with the Loras College Poll.

Free trade agreements

Trade has been a prominent issue this election season, with both Sanders and Trump detailing their opposition to international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the poll, registered voters across Wisconsin were asked whether they thought free trade agreements tend to help or hurt the nation’s economy and cost jobs. In general, registered voters were more likely to see free trade agreements as harmful rather than beneficial.

Free trade agreements and economy and jobs in the United States

Free trade agreements tend to hurt the U.S. economy and cost U.S. jobs 47 percent
Free trade agreements tend to help the U.S. economy and create U.S. jobs 31 percent
Unsure 22 percent

Turning to the likely primary voters surveyed and their views on free trade agreements, 53 percent of Sanders supporters indicated they believe free trade agreements hurt the U.S. economy and cost jobs, while only 33 percent of Clinton supporters believe this. On the Republican side, 69 percent of Trump supporters are critical of free trade agreements, while only 36 percent of Cruz supporters indicated a concern for the impact of free trade agreements.

Other noteworthy results from the poll:

  • 27 percent of the registered voters surveyed indicated that the country was on the right track, while 61 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, and 11 percent were undecided on the direction of the country
  • The partisan divide is clearly on display in assessments of the direction of the country, with 90 percent of self-identified Republicans reporting that the country is headed in the wrong direction. This compares to only 33 percent of self-identified Democrats who believe the country is going in the wrong direction.

For toplines and crosstabs related to today’s release, visit:

Note on Methodology: The Loras College Poll surveyed 1,000 likely 2016 Wisconsin primary voters (including 416 likely Republican voters and 416 likely Democratic voters). The survey was conducted March 28-29. Margin of error for full sample results is +/- 3.1 percent, while for the party subsamples the margin of error is +/- 4.8 percent. All results calculated at a 95 percent confidence interval.

  • Sample drawn from random selection of phone numbers of registered voters purchased through third-party vendor. For ballot questions related specifically to the April 5 election, only likely voters included. Screen for likely primary participation is report of “definitely,” “very,” or “somewhat likely” to vote on April 5 (and includes those who report to have already voted).
  • The total sample was balanced for gender and age, and divided across Wisconsin’s congressional districts with reference to current registration. Sample includes both landlines and cell phones, with weighting applied to achieve 56 percent landline versus 44 percent cell in order to better approximate cell phone prevalence in population (unweighted cell phone split in sample was 72 percent landline to 28 percent cell).
  • The survey was conducted using live operator interviews through a contracted professional call center.
  • Script development and methodology used for the survey received input from Republican campaign consultant Brian Dumas and Democratic campaign consultant Dave Heller.

Note: Percentages are of weighted sample—see methodological note above.

(May not add to 100% due to rounding)

The Loras College Poll is conducted several times each year. Loras College faculty and student researchers work as part of the survey research team to develop poll questions, analyze and interpret data, and assist with sharing the final results with local, regional and national media.

The Loras College Poll website is:

Follow on Twitter: @LorasPoll or @ChrisBudzisz.