Key suburbs looking better for Republicans in latest Marquette Poll

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Key suburbs looking better for Republicans

For months Democrats have been talking about making serious in-roads into the Milwaukee suburbs.  Democrats believed their suburban appeal was improving based on recent success in the Supreme Court race in April as well as declining poll numbers for President Trump.  They were convinced the suburban shift would prevent the president from winning Wisconsin again, and may cost the GOP some suburban seats in the legislature.  Frankly, many Republicans were becoming increasing concerned about recent trends in the WOW (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) counties as well as suburbs in Milwaukee County.  The latest Marquette Law School poll suggests the suburbs are looking better for Republicans heading into the fall.

The August Marquette Law School poll shows challenger Joe Biden leading incumbent Donald Trump statewide by 49% – 44% among likely voters.  The margin of error in the poll is 4.2%.  Meaning the presidential race is just outside the margin of error with 76 days to go.  By comparison, the Marquette Law School poll of likely voters in August of 2016 had Donald Trump losing to Hillary Clinton by 15%.  On closer examination, President Trump LEADS Joe Biden in what is defined as the “Rest of Milwaukee” or the suburbs by a margin of 53% – 44%.  Rest of Milwaukee includes Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Dodge, Jefferson, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties.  In the June Marquette poll among registered voters Donald Trump led Joe Biden in Rest of Milwaukee 47% – 43%.   Trump’s ballot improvement from the June poll (+6%) is noteworthy.

Presidential Ballot Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Biden               44%                                         Biden               43%

Trump             53%     (+6)                              Trump             47%

Favorability among likely voters has improved slightly for both Trump and Biden since June in Rest of Milwaukee.  50% of likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee now have a favorable view of President Trump while 42% have a favorable view of Joe Biden.  Trump has a net positive favorability rating of (+2) while Biden has a net negative rating of (-13%) in Rest of Milwaukee. 

Trump Favorability Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Favorable        50% (+3)                                  Favorable        47%

Unfavorable    48%                                         Unfavorable    48%

Biden Favorability Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Favorable        42% (+6)                                  Favorable        36%

Unfavorable    55%                                         Unfavorable    55%

Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin says the 2020 presidential race in Wisconsin will be decided by three issues: 1. Economy, 2. Coronavirus, and 3. Race Relations.    Let’s examine each issue and how voters in the Rest of Milwaukee suburbs feel about them.

The economy is the top issue in Wisconsin as it is nationally.  That’s good news for President Trump.  51% if likely voters in Wisconsin approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.  46% of likely voters disapprove.  Moreover, 57% of likely voters in the Rest of Milwaukee suburbs approve of Trump’s handling of the economy with 41% disapproving.  Trump’s approval on the economy among likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee is unchanged from June when it was also 57%.  A solid approval rating on the most important issue in voter heavy SE Wisconsin.

Trump’s handling of the Economy – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Approve          57%     (even)                          Approve          57%

Disapprove      41%                                         Disapprove      38%

Coronavirus is the second driving issue in 2020.  Voters gave Trump credit for his handling of the crisis early, but support has declined considerably as the virus lingers on.  40% of likely voters in Wisconsin approve of Trump’s handling of coronavirus.  45% of likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee support Trump’s handling of the coronavirus while 50% disapprove.  There was slippage from the June poll when 50% of registered voters in Rest of Milwaukee approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. Overall, likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee are less likely to use Trump’s handling of the virus as a reason to vote against him.  If therapeutic drugs or a vaccine can be developed prior to the election, then it will be a historic achievement medicine and for Trump and many voters would give him significant credit.

Trump’s handling of Coronavirus – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Approve          45%     (-5%)                            Approve          50%

Disapprove      50%                                         Disapprove      45%

Race relations is the final big issue that will drive votes this fall according to Professor Franklin.  Voters are combining multiple related issues into this topic.  The four sub-issues that make up race relations include; Black Lives Matter, Protests, Cops, and Defunding the Police.  Likely voter opinions on these sub-issues in the Rest of Milwaukeesuburbs is helping Republicans.

Black Lives Matter is viewed favorably by 49% of likely voters statewide.  BLM is viewed unfavorably by 37% of likely voters.  That’s a huge decline from the June Marquette poll when   BLM held a 59% – 27% favorability rating.  In the Rest of Milwaukee suburbs BLM is viewed favorably by 43% of likely voters and unfavorably by 41% – well within the margin of error.  In June, BLM was viewed favorably by 57% of registered voters in Rest of Milwaukee and unfavorably by 38%.  A 15% decline of support in two months is massive!

Black Lives Matter (BLM) Favorability – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Favorable        43%     (-15%)                          Favorable        57%

Unfavorable    41%     (+3)                              Unfavorable    38%

Support for mass protests has also declined considerably statewide since June.  Mass protests are viewed favorably by 48% of likely voters and unfavorably by 48% in the August poll.  In June these protests were viewed favorably by 61% of registered voters and unfavorably by 36%.  The 13% decline in support of mass protests in the past two months is noteworthy.   Support for mass protests in Rest of Milwaukee is 45%, with 44% strongly opposed, while opposition to mass protests is 54%.  Clearly support for mass protests in Rest of Milwaukee has improved over the summer but is still a net negative by (-9%).  Mass protests are not helping Democrats with likely voters.

Mass Protest approval – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Approve          45%                                         Approve          20%

Disapprove      54%                                         Disapprove      74%

The final two issues that fit into the category of race relations in voters’ minds have to do with the police.  How do voters feel about cops in general and more specifically how they feel about the notion of defunding the police.  This is where Democrats are way out of step with voters, particularly in Rest of Milwaukee.

Likely voters statewide view cops favorably by a 76% – 13% margin (+63%).  That’s an improvement over the June poll of registered voters when support was 72% – 18% (+54%).  In Rest of Milwaukee favorability of cops is even higher.  Likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee had an 82% favorable view of cops in August and an 8% unfavorable view (+74%).  In June registered voters in Rest of Milwaukee had a 77% favorable view of cops and a 15% unfavorable view (+62%).

Cops Favorability – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Favorable        82%     (+5%)                           Favorable        77%

Unfavorable    8%       (-7%)                            Unfavorable    15%

Defunding the police has gotten more unpopular in Wisconsin over the past two months both statewide and in Rest of Milwaukee.  Only 17% of likely voters statewide agree with defunding the police while 78% disagree (-61%).  Only 11% of likely voters in Rest of Milwaukee agree with defunding the police while 85% disagree (- 74%).

Agree with Defunding the Police – Rest of Milwaukee

August 2020                                                   June 2020

Agree               11%     (-9%)                            Agree               20%

Disagree          85%     (+11%)                         Disagree          74%

For Democrats to do well in Wisconsin suburbs in 2020 they need Trump to underperform on the ballot, have a net negative approval, and they need to align with voters on the issues they care most about.  The latest Marquette law school poll shows none of those things happening.  In fact, several of the key issues are improving for Republicans heading in the final 76 days.  The notion of Democrat pick-ups in the legislature in the Milwaukee suburbs is far-fetched as Democrats are amplifying certain issues voters wholeheartedly disagree with them on in this area of the state.  The result may mean suburban Democrats are at risk.

The President is doing well against Joe Biden in the Rest of Milwaukee.  He’s beating Biden by 9% on the ballot and has a net favorable rating (+2%) while Biden has a net negative rating of (-13%).  Most voters approve of Trump’s handling of the economy and even more support him in Rest of Milwaukee.  The economy is the top issue in voters’ minds.  Democrats best issue against Trump in Rest of Milwaukee is the coronavirus.  But likely voters in the suburbs don’t hold the same strong views as voters in other parts of the state such as the City of Milwaukee or Madison.

On the basket of issues included in race relations, Democrats are quickly losing ground with likely voters.  Voters don’t like the violent protests and looting they see on TV as it makes them feel less safe in their homes and their communities.  The also are losing support for BLM as the organization hasn’t denounced the violence, and, worse yet, has publicly supported some of it including the looting in Chicago calling it reparations.  Support for cops has increased over the summer.  In politics, it would be fair to say that Democrats overplayed their hand on these issues, and it has turned voter off.  Even a plurality of self-identified Democrats doesn’t support defunding the policy.

76 days is an eternity in a political campaign and things could change, but Wisconsin Republicans are in much better shape in the suburbs than originally thought.