If the race for Wisconsin governor happened now instead of next fall, it could be a toss-up.
That’s what the latest Marquette University Law School poll suggests.
It found Republican Gov. Scott Walker leads three Democrats by only a small percentage – and within the margin of error.
The poll surveyed 800 Wisconsin registered voters Oct. 21-24 by both cell phone and landline. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.
The poll matched up Walker against former Trek executive Mary Burke, who’s announced she’s running; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who’s considering a bid; and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca.
Pollster Charles Franklin says the close race is “impressive” this far in advance of the election.
Some of the polls’ findings:
Next year’s race for governor
Gov. Scott Walker polls at 47 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Mary Burke’s 45 percent, a difference that is within the margin of error of the poll.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who is considering entering the race, receives 44 percent support to Walker’s 47 percent, also inside the margin of error.
Another Democrat, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, receives 42 percent support to the governor’s 48 percent.
While the poll says the three Democrats have a strong showing, the survey also indicates that voters don’t know much about them. Seventy percent have not determined whether they have a favorable view of Burke. Seventy-nine percent are unable to rate Vinehout, and 82 percent cannot rate Barca.
The 2016 presidential election
Republicans pick Gov. Walker as their first choice for the GOP presidential nomination, with 29 percent support. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan comes in second place with 25 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, 52 percent would like to see Walker run for president, while 43 percent say they would not like to see him run. For Ryan, 64 percent say they would like to see him run, while 27 percent would not. While Walker has a lower percentage wanting him to run, 50 percent of those wanting Walker to run rank him as their first choice for the nomination. Only 35 percent of those wanting Ryan to run rank him as their first choice.
Among Democrats, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton dominates the race, with 64 percent of the support of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tie for second place, with 11 percent each, followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
In a 2016 presidential election "trial heat," Clinton leads all Republicans tested. She leads Walker 53 percent to 41 percent, and Ryan 51 to 43 percent.
Job creation and the economy
Forty-one percent of respondents believe Wisconsin is lagging behind other states in job creation. Meanwhile, 37 percent say Wisconsin is adding jobs at about the same rate. Fourteen percent believe the state is adding jobs faster than others.
There are sharp partisan divisions in the perception of job growth, with 10 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats thinking Wisconsin lags behind other states, while 78 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 29 percent of Democrats see Wisconsin keeping pace or adding jobs faster than other states.
Looking at the overall economy, 32 percent expect improvement over the next 12 months. Twenty-nine percent expect the economy to worsen. Thirty-six percent expect no change.
Tax cuts: 56 percent favor, while 36 percent oppose, the state’s recent $100 million property tax cut.
School choice: 50 percent support the expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school tuition, while 44 percent oppose the move.
Residency: 45 percent favor ending residency requirements for municipal workers; 49 percent are in opposition.
Abortion: 38 percent support and 56 percent oppose requiring women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound.
Same-sex marriage: 53 percent support same-sex marriage and 24 percent favor civil unions, while 19 percent say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex unions.
Marijuana: 50 percent support legalizing marijuana use, while 45 percent oppose it.