New Poll Shows Wisconsin Races for Governor, US Senate Are Even Tighter

Make It Count RoJo Barnes Evers Michels
By Pat Kreitlow
November 2, 2022

Déjà vu: Wisconsin is seeing extremely close statewide elections. Majority of Republicans favor paid family leave and exceptions to an abortion ban.

The final Marquette University Law School poll before next week’s general election shows Wisconsin voters as divided as ever, with the two major statewide races well within the margin of error—reaffirming the power of every Wisconsinite to influence the outcomes.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his Republican challenger, construction executive Tim Michels, were each favored by 48% of likely voters in the survey. And while incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson leads his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, 50%-48%, the two-point difference is a statistical dead heat in a poll with a margin of error of plus/minus 4.8%.

While the candidates have had better numbers in previous polling, the new figures better represent the historically-even divide among state voters. In the final Marquette Poll before the 2018 election for governor, then-Gov. Scott Walker and Evers, his challenger, were tied at 47%. Evers defeated Walker days later by an extremely thin margin of 49.5% to 48.4%.

Poll Director Charles Franklin said the survey, conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1, is composed of 802 registered voters—with the “likely voters” category based on the 672 of those respondents who said they are “certain to vote.” Of the likely voters, 79% said they were enthusiastic about voting. Of those who were not certain if they’ll vote, only 11% said they were enthused about casting a ballot.

On questions related to whether each candidate “better understands the problems of ordinary people in Wisconsin” and “shares your values,” Barnes and Johnson were deadlocked at around 44%, while Evers had a slight lead over Michels in those categories.

As consistently shown in polling, Wisconsinites of all political stripes remain in favor of abortion rights. On the Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court that repealed abortion rights in Roe v. Wade, 55% of all respondents opposed it—including 92% of Democrats and 52% of self-identified independents. Among Republicans in the survey, 72% support the repeal of Roe v. Wade while 22% opposed it.

By an 84-10 margin, voters believed abortion should be allowed for victims of rape and incest—including 73% of Republicans.

Asked if they support requiring businesses to provide paid leave for new parents, 62% of Republican respondents said yes, along with 65% of independents and 95% of Democrats—a 73-18 overall margin.

On most other issues there remains a chasm between Wisconsinites, based on party identification, on their priorities.

Republicans in the survey said they were “very concerned” about an accurate vote count (81%), inflation (80%), crime (79%), illegal immigration (71%), and taxes (62%). Democrats were most concerned about abortion policy (81%), gun violence (76%), public schools (62%), an accurate vote count (38%), and inflation (38%).

For independents, the top five issues were inflation, public schools, crime, taxes, and gun violence.

The toss-up status of the statewide races stands in stark contrast to legislative races, where Republicans can gain a supermajority of the Assembly and Senate because of gerrymandered districts written by GOP lawmakers and affirmed by a conservative-controlled state Supreme Court. If Evers were to win reelection, even with a majority of votes in the state, he could still have his vetoes overridden by legislators in a party that collectively received fewer votes across Wisconsin.


  • 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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