Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker has lost significant home-state support for his White House bid, and he continues to face dissatisfaction among Wisconsin voters with his job approval rating falling below 40 percent for the first time in a new Marquette Law School Poll released Thursday.
The poll found 39 percent of registered voters approve of Walker’s job performance, two points lower than a similar survey in April and the lowest of all Marquette polls since January 2012.
“That’s notably underwater,” said poll director Charles Franklin.
Among a field of 17 Republican contenders, Walker received support from 25 percent of self-identified Republicans or independents who lean to the GOP. That’s dramatically below the 40 percent backing he had in April before formally entering the race.
Other contenders trailed Walker, including retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (13 percent), real estate mogul Donald Trump (9 percent), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (8 percent), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (both at 7 percent). Trump, who leads in national polls, wasn’t one of the options in the April poll.
Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, issued this statement about the poll results: “As Governor Walker says, the only poll that matters is on Election Day. Gov. Walker has a strong record of fighting for reform and winning on behalf of the taxpayers, and he will continue to share that message in the months to come. Voters are hungry for action, not talk, and they want a candidate who is tested and proven. Gov. Walker is that candidate.”
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also seen a drop in her support as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged. Clinton still leads with 44 percent of self-identified Democrats or Democratic leaning independents, but Sanders, who held a large rally in Madison on July 1, received 32 percent support.
In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton has a 52-42 lead over Walker. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fared the best in Wisconsin against Clinton, who still held a 47-42 edge.
Only 37 percent said Walker is “someone who cares about people like me,” while six in 10 respondents said Walker is “someone who is able to get things done.” A third of respondents said they like Walker’s decision to run for president.
The poll included 802 registered voters interviewed between Aug. 13 and 16. It had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points. Republican primary questions had 334 respondents and a margin of error of 6.6 points. Democratic primary questions had 396 respondents and a margin of error of 6.1 points.
A lot has happened in the three months since the last Marquette poll found Walker’s approval rating at its lowest level in three years, including Walker officially announcing his candidacy (though he’s been traveling the country extensively since January).
Walker signed a contentious state budget that cut University of Wisconsin System funding by $250 million while freezing tuition, borrowed a record amount for roads while reducing other borrowing and raised park fees while keeping property taxes flat. His office also was involved in a widely criticized attempt to gut the state’s open records law.
The poll found a plurality, 41 percent, think the state budget is in worse shape than it was a few years ago.
Another 36 percent say it’s in better shape and 19 percent say it’s about the same.
It also found 58 percent of respondents don’t think the UW System can absorb the state funding cuts, though 52 percent said it can absorb four years of frozen tuition.
Walker also approved a deal to provide $250 million in state and local taxpayer funds for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena and signed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks.
Asked about the abortion ban, 48 percent said they support it, while 44 percent said they were opposed.
In May, a State Journal investigation raised questions about the Walker administration’s involvement in a $500,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. loan to a struggling Milwaukee company owned by a top Walker donor that has yet to be repaid. Walker has since begun a phase-out of the agency’s loan program and removed himself as chairman of the board.
The poll found 49.5 percent of respondents think the state is creating jobs at a slower pace than other states. About 9 percent say it is creating jobs at a slower pace, and 36 percent say at about the same rate.
Overall, 46 percent said the state is headed in the right direction, whereas 52 percent say it’s on the wrong track. That’s a slight improvement from April when 43 percent said it was on the right track and 53 percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.