Wisconsin’s two big political races are toss-ups, according to Wednesday’s Marquette University Law School Poll as the Nov. 8 election goes right to the wire.
In the closely watched race that could determine party control of the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Ron Johnson holds a 2-point lead among likely voters over Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, who in the last three weeks rebounded to within the survey’s margin of error.
Johnson was at 50% and Barnes was at 48% among likely voters.
“The right characterization is this is clearly a toss-up race at this point,” poll director Charles Franklin said.
The governor’s race, which has been neck-and-neck for months, became a dead heat among likely voters.
Democratic incumbent Tony Evers and Republican businessman Tim Michels were tied, 48% to 48%.
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This close to the election, pollsters zero in on likely voters, those who have either cast ballots or say they will on Election Day.
Perhaps even more important than the survey’s snapshot, Franklin said the polling shows voter turnout could reach the level hit in 2018. Around 2.7 million Wisconsinites went to the polls, at the time an unprecedented number for a midterm.
Franklin noted that the Senate survey showed “Democrats are coming home to Mandela Barnes. It’s not a huge change, but a change in his favor.”
Johnson had a 7-point lead among independents.
The Senate race has shown significant movement throughout the campaign. Barnes emerged from the August primary with a 7-point advantage over Johnson among registered voters. But by early September, Johnson forged a 1-point lead.
In mid-October, Johnson assumed command, with a 6-point margin among likely voters, gaining support from 52% to 46% backing Barnes.
Franklin said the survey figures for the governor’s race are “eerily similar” to 2018, when Evers edged Republican Gov. Scott Walker as “very moderate Walker leads evaporated to a pure tie in the last poll.”
“That’s what we’re seeing this time as well,” Franklin said. “So, pure toss-up. I don’t know what else to call it.”
In the governor’s race, the Marquette poll had shown Evers leading Michels since June. But significantly, the Democratic governor hasn’t cracked the 50% mark. He held a 1-point lead in mid-October.
One wildcard in the governor’s race could be independent candidate Joan Beglinger, who remains on the ballot even though she stopped campaigning and threw her support to Michels. She was at 2% in the poll.
The survey figures in the two big races come as Democrats still face significant political headwinds, with just 34% saying the state was headed on the right track, while 58% said the state was headed on the wrong track.
Only 41% of voters approve of the job being done by President Joe Biden, with 54% disapproving.
The new survey results buoyed the Michels campaign.
“These numbers tell us what we have known all along — the race will be extremely close,” said Michels campaign manager Patrick McNulty.
On favorability, Evers was viewed favorably by 44% and unfavorably by 46%, while Michels’ favorable-unfavorable stood balanced at 39% each.
In the Senate race, Barnes was 4-point net negative (40% favorable, 44% unfavorable), while Johnson was net negative by 3 points (43% favorable, 46% unfavorable).
More:The 6 questions the Nov. 8 election will answer about Wisconsin politics
Inflation (68%) remains the number one issue for voters, followed by public schools (62%), crime (57%), gun violence (56%) and an accurate vote count (56%).
“Abortion policy (52%) is well down the list,” Franklin said, although the issue remains vital for 81% of Democrats, who listed it as their top concern.
Thirty-seven percent favored the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade while 55% opposed it.
Eighty-four percent said abortion in Wisconsin should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. The state’s 1849 law outlaws abortion in most cases.
Looking ahead to the next state budget, 29% backed increasing state support for students to attend private schools while 63% favored increasing funding for public schools.
“Just remember polls do not vote. People vote. It’s up to you. It’s not up to the poll,” Franklin said.
The survey of 802 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted Oct. 24-Nov. 1 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. For 679 likely voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
The sample was 30% Republican, 28% Democratic and 41% independent.
More:5 key fact checks on Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and GOP challenger Tim Michels