New polls underscore tight margin of Wisconsin elections

MADISON, Wis. — A pair of newly released polls show just how tight the races for Senate and Governor are in Wisconsin.

The Spectrum News/Siena College Poll surveyed 651 likely voters in the Badger state, diving into subjects including President Biden’s approval rating, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and who voters would choose in the upcoming November election. The margin of error for the poll was +/- 4.5%. Of those polled by Spectrum/Siena, 32% identified as Democrats, 27% said they were Republicans and 35% said they were either independent or voted for a third party.

Another poll conducted between September 16 and September 18 by Emerson College surveyed 860 Wisconsin voters who said they were very likely to vote and had a margin of error of +/- 3.27%. Of those polled by Emerson College, 34.4% identified as Democrats, 35.3% identified as Republicans, and 30.4% identified as Independents or another party.

On the race for governor

Of those surveyed by Spectrum and Siena, 49% said they would vote to re-elect Tony Evers as governor, compared to 44% who said they would vote for Tim Michels. Additionally, 5% of respondents said they still did not know who they would vote for or were undecided, 1% said they would not vote for governor, and 1% said they would vote for a candidate other than Evers or Michels.

Evers saw the greatest amount of support from voters in the Dane County and Milwaukee areas. A total of 78% of respondents from Dane County said they would vote for the incumbent governor, and 66% of respondents from the Milwaukee area said they would do the same.

A total of 48% of respondents from southern Wisconsin said they would vote for Evers, compared to 45% who sided with Michels. Michels did carry the BOW (Brown, Outagamie, Winnebago) and WOW (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington) counties by a wide margin, 53% to 37%.

The governor also leads Michels in voters from three of four age brackets, with 50% of voters aged 18-34, 52% aged 35-49, and 55% aged 65 and older siding with Evers, compared to 41%, 40%, and 39% for Michels respectively. The Republican challenger fared better with older voters, with 50% of respondents aged 50-64 sided with Michels compared to 45% who said they would vote for Evers.

In the Emerson poll, 45% said they supported Evers, while 43% said they supported Michels. A total of 7% said they were still undecided.

On the race for Senate

The margin tightens when looking at the U.S. Senate race between Mandela Barnes and Ron Johnson in the Spectrum/Siena poll. Among likely voters, Barnes leads, 48% to 47%, but that difference is well within the margin of error of 4.5%. In addition, Barnes did not poll as strongly in Dane County and Milwaukee as Evers. A total of 65% of Dane County respondents and 63% of Milwaukee respondents said they would vote for Barnes.

Like Michels, Johnson holds a strong lead in the BOW and WOW counties and in the north, and he only trails slightly in southern Wisconsin, 47% to 48%. Barnes holds the lead among the youngest and oldest voters, but Johnson leads among those in the 50-64 age bracket and the 35-49 bracket’s vote is effectively a toss-up.

The Emerson poll, though — which had a higher percentage of respondents identifying as Republican — shows Johnson ahead, with 48% of respondents saying they planned to vote for the incumbent senator, and 44% said they would vote for Barnes. The four-point margin is just outside of that poll’s margin of error of +/- 3.27%.

Michels, Johnson struggle in favorability

In terms of voter perception of the candidates, 32% of respondents in the Spectrum/Siena poll said they had a favorable opinion of Michels, compared to 43% who had an unfavorable opinion. In comparison, 47% had a favorable opinion of Evers, compared to 43% unfavorable.

In the U.S. Senate race, 37% had a favorable opinion of Johnson, compared to 50% who had an unfavorable opinion of the incumbent Senator. Meanwhile, 41% of those who responded to the poll had a favorable opinion of Barnes, compared to 39% unfavorable.

Most of the poll’s respondents have an unfavorable opinion of President Joe Biden. A total of 52% of respondents, including 61% of independents, said they did not have a favorable opinion of the president, while 44% said they had a favorable opinion of him. Additionally, 42% said they approved of how he is handling his job and 54% said they disapproved.

In the Emerson College poll, 48% said they had either a very unfavorable (40%) or somewhat unfavorable view (8%) of Johnson, while 46% said they had either a very unfavorable (38%) or somewhat unfavorable view (8%) of Barnes, although 11% said they have not heard enough to form an opinion about the Lt. Governor. Only 3% said they had not heard enough to form an opinion on Johnson.

The Emerson poll also found both gubernatorial candidates saw high unfavorability ratings, with 44% saying they had an unfavorable view of Michels and 49% having an unfavorable view of Evers. Like in the Senate race, 11% said they hadn’t heard enough about the challenger, Michels, yet to form an opinion.

On other issues

On the topic of abortion, 62% of respondents in the Spectrum/Siena poll said they opposed or strongly opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, compared to 31% who said they supported or strongly supported the Supreme Court’s decision. Of those polled, 72% said that Wisconsin should have a new law addressing abortion in the state, while 22% said the 1849 law that only allows “therapeutic abortions” and makes no exceptions for victims of rape and/or incest.

If new legislation was proposed, 42% of respondents said they would support a new law that banned abortion in some fashion, including 5% who said they supported a complete ban. Meanwhile, 51% said they would support a law allowing some abortions, including 22% who said the procedure should be allowed up to and beyond the 20th week of pregnancy.

On the topic of gun control, 87% of respondents said they somewhat or strongly supported a mandate on universal background checks, including 74% who said they strongly supported it, while 54% said they somewhat or strongly supported a ban on assault-style weapons, including 44% who strongly supported the ban.

You can find full results for the Spectrum/Siena poll here.

Of those polled by Emerson College, 46% said the economy was the most important issue in determining their vote this November, with abortion access coming in second place with 17% saying it was their most important issue.

You can find the full Emerson College poll results here.

RELATED: Marquette poll shows incumbents Evers, Johnson narrowly ahead of challengers, but within margin of error

You can get more election news and analysis from News 3 Now here.