MILWAUKEE -- A new Marquette University Law School Poll shows Democrat Tammy Baldwin leading Republican Tommy Thompson, 50% to 41%, in the race for the U.S. Senate seat. A month ago, it was exactly the reverse.
Professor Charles Franklin, the poll's director, says the biggest shift in the Senate race comes from independent voters. In August, independents preferred Thompson 47% to 37% for Baldwin. Now, independents support Baldwin 50% to Thompson's 38%.
"The thing that is so striking is how big the shift is for independents. For most of the change we see is independents shifting their view on things. Of course the flip side is what can change dramatically in one month could change again dramatically later," Franklin said.
The Marquette University Law School Poll also shows President Barack Obama has seen a large, post-convention bump. Voters now prefer Obama to Republican Mitt Romney, 54% to 40%. In the August poll, the president lead 49% to 46%.
Once again, President Obama's gains in Wisconsin appear to be among independents. Independents now prefer Obama 53% to 38% for Romney.
MU experts say the tightening of the Senate race from August to September mirrors what others polls have recently shown. They say if the sample was adjusted to match the yearlong average partisan makeup, both margins would tighten. In the Senate race, Baldwin would be up 48% to 43% and President Obama would be up 51% to 43%.
The Marquette University Law School Poll also shows the president's job approval rating among regular voters to be 54% with 39% disapproving. In the August poll, the president's approval rating was 48% with 45% disapproving.
The poll shows 28% of regular voters say the economy has improved over the past year. 33% say it has gotten worse. 37% say it has stayed about the same.
When asked about whether voters responding to the poll believe they are better off than four years ago, 47% say yes, 49% say no. Asked if "the country as a whole" is better off than four years ago, 46% say things are better while 52% say the conditions are not better.
When asked who is responsible for the current economic problems, 30% of poll respondents say President Obama and 55% says President George W. Bush is still responsible.
The poll interviewed 705 registered Wisconsin voters by both landline and cell phone September 13-16, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 for the full sample.
This latest Marquette poll has a shift in partisanship of those surveyed. In September, Democrats comprised two points more, Republicans three points less than in past polls -- by chance.
Poll Director Franklin says the shift in partisanship may be responsible for a small shift, but the key is the number of independents stayed the same -- and the independents seemed to have changed their minds.
The Republican National Committee said Wednesday the new numbers are "ridiculous."
Baldwin's campaign told FOX6 News the numbers show the campaign is moving in the right direction.
The Marquette University Law School Poll provides a comprehensive, independent survey of voter attitudes in Wisconsin. It is the largest independent polling project in state history.