Poll Shows ‘Striking’ GOP Disconnect on 2020 Knowledge—Johnson Still Underwater on Voters’ Favorability

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By Pat Kreitlow

April 27, 2022

Republicans feel suspicious about the presidential vote, but not enough to follow purported investigations about an election they don’t trust.

Republican voters in Wisconsin are likely to claim a lack of confidence in the 2020 presidential election results, yet nearly two-thirds are not following an examination being run by Republicans, according to a new Marquette Law School Poll.

Pollster Charles Franklin called it “striking” that 64% of Republicans surveyed over the past few days aren’t following the work of former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman closely enough to have an opinion about it, even while 62% say they are not too confident or not at all confident in the accuracy of the 2020 election.

“So we actually have the situation in which Republicans have less knowledge about the investigation by their party than Democrats,” said Franklin. “This is the odd thing about our current news environment and the way we pay attention to issues, that you would think the party most outraged about 2020 would be the most attentive to the investigation of that election, and in fact the exact opposite is true.”

There is currently no enthusiasm gap between each party’s voters, according to the survey, with 57% of Democrats and Republicans describing themselves as very enthused to vote in November, compared to 35% of independents.

“I gotta tell you that Wisconsin people like to vote. It’s pretty obvious in the data and in our turnout statistics,” Franklin said. 

But enthusiasm levels were higher among Republican voters who doubt the 2020 results and lower among those who do not. Franklin said it could lead to a situation where the Republican primary will be decided by the voters most likely to be aligned with former President Trump’s untrue assertions. A nominee embracing the “Big Lie” may then have a tougher time in the general election.

Coincidentally, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a candidate for governor, told a right-wing Green Bay radio station on Tuesday that she “feels” the 2020 election was rigged, a reversal from late 2021 when she was asked if she believed Biden had won and she said, “I do.”

Only minor changes can be seen in the poll among  candidates running for marquee offices this fall, with most voters in Wisconsin believing it’s far too early to commit to a specific candidate.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes continues to lead among the Democrats seeking to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson, though the lead is slightly narrower than before. Barnes has 19% support compared to 16% for Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, 7% for state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and 5% for Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson. All other Democratic candidates garnered support of 1% or less. And 48% of Democratic respondents had no preference.

Among Republicans seeking to challenge Gov. Tony Evers this fall, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch maintains a 22-point lead over businessman Kevin Nicholson, 32% to 10%. State Rep. Timothy Ramthun has 5% support. And 46% of Republican respondents had no preference. The poll was begun before businessman Tim Michels entered the race.

Looking at the two incumbents: Evers has a net positive result, 47% to 42%, when voters are asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him—while Johnson continues to be underwater on the question: 46% having an unfavorable opinion vs. 35% favorable. In 2016, shortly before winning reelection, Johnson had a net-positive favorability rating, 43% to 39%.

Evers’ rating is noteworthy since a slight majority of all respondents say they think Wisconsin is on the wrong track. “It’s striking that people can be this pessimistic about the state and its direction and still have a net positive approval rating of Tony Evers,” said Franklin.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.



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