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MU Law poll: Voters willing to increase school spending, but not gas taxes or fees

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MILWAUKEE -- The first Marquette Law School poll since the election was released on Thursday, Jan. 24 -- and it shows 48 percent of respondents think Wisconsin should withdraw from a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 42 percent say the state should stick with the suit.

In a series of tweets, Poll Director Charles Franklin indicated views on the ACA lawsuit divide sharply on partisan lines. 75 percent of Republicans say the state should continue the suit -- and only 11 percent of Democrats believe the suit should continue forward.

On Medicaid expansion with federal funds, the poll shows 43 percent of Republicans are in favor of the idea -- while 88 percent of Democrats back the idea.

"It certainly shows the desire of addressing healthcare concerns through this expansion has surprisingly broad support," Franklin said.

On a separate issue,  respondents were asked which they would prefer -- increased spending on K-12 public schools or reducing property taxes. Overall, 55 percent say increase spending on the school -- 39 percent say they would prefer reduced property taxes.

The poll also found a growing number of voters support legalizing marijuana.

"We've gone from a small majority of those opposed to marijuana by about 51% percent , up to a big majority in favor of 57 to 58 percent in favor of legalization," Franklin said.

The biggest surprise to Franklin -- most Wisconsin voters, regardless of party, agree a non-partisan commission (not the legislature or the governor) should decide how voting district boundaries are drawn.

"This is an issue where you can expect party polarization and it`s not there and the public overwhelmingly supports a non-partisan commission. Whether there is a way to get there with legislation is another issue," Franklin said.

Other notes about the poll. Voters are reluctant to raise taxes and fees for roads and highways. The poll shows 52 percent prefer to keep gas taxes and fees where they are -- while 42 percent favor increasing both.

As noted by a news release on the Marquette Law poll, majorities across partisan groups support a major increase in state aid for special education. Overall, 73 percent favor such an increase, with 20 percent opposed. Among Republicans including leaners, 62 percent support and 30 percent oppose increased aid for special education. Among Democrats including leaners, 89 percent support and 7 percent oppose more spending for special education. Among independents, 65 percent support and 25 percent oppose more such spending.

Fifty-five percent of respondents say that they support increasing the minimum wage in Wisconsin, while 39 percent oppose raising it. Thirty-two percent of Republicans including leaners favor an increase, while 64 percent are opposed. Among Democrats including leaners, 82 percent favor raising the minimum wage and 9 percent are opposed. Fifty percent of independents favor an increase and 43 percent are opposed.

Criminal justice reform

Voters are willing to consider releasing some prisoners before they have completed their full sentence, but support depends on how much of the sentence has been served. Half the sample was asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Once a prisoner has served at least half of their sentence, they should be released from prison and given a less costly form of punishment if they can demonstrate that they are no longer a threat to society.” The other half of those polled were asked a question that specified release after two-thirds of the sentence was completed. For those asked about release after half of the sentence was served, 42 percent agreed with early release while 43 percent opposed early release. When the time served was set at two-thirds of the sentence, 51 percent supported early release and 34 percent were opposed.

Lame-duck legislation

Fifteen percent of voters strongly approve of the limits placed on the governor and attorney general by the lame-duck session of the legislature, with 16 percent approving somewhat. Forty-one percent strongly disapprove and 14 percent disapprove somewhat. Fourteen percent lack an opinion.

Concerning former Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to sign the lame duck legislation, 18 percent strongly approve, 15 percent somewhat approve, 11 percent somewhat disapprove and 41 percent strongly disapprove. Fourteen percent lack an opinion.

After leaving office, Walker said in interviews that he might consider a future run for office in Wisconsin. Thirty-seven percent say they would like to see him run for governor or senator in 2022, while 53 percent say they do not want him to run.

Cooperation between governor and legislature

Forty-seven percent say that Gov. Tony Evers is trying to cooperate with Wisconsin legislative leaders, while 25 percent say Evers really is not interested in cooperating. Twenty-eight percent say they do not know.

Twenty-two percent of respondents say Wisconsin legislative leaders are trying to cooperate with Evers, while 46 percent say the leaders are not really interested in cooperating. Thirty-two percent say they do not know.

National issues

Forty-four percent of respondents favor building a wall along the border with Mexico, while 51 percent oppose the wall. In March 2017, when the question was first asked, 37 percent favored and 59 percent opposed building a wall. When asked most recently, in August 2018, 41 percent favored and 54 percent opposed building a wall

Twenty-nine percent of respondents support the partial shutdown of the federal government over the issue of funding a border wall, with 66 percent opposed to the shutdown. Fifty-five percent of Republicans including leaners support the shutdown, while 41 percent oppose it. Five percent of Democrats including leaners support the shutdown, while 92 percent oppose it. Among independents, 25 percent support the shutdown, with 69 percent opposed.

Respondents were asked, “Regardless of how you feel about the shutdown, who do you think is most responsible for it?” Forty-three percent say Trump, 7 percent say Republicans in Congress, 34 percent say Democrats in Congress and 14 percent say all are equally responsible.

Opinions of President Trump

Forty-four percent approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52 percent disapprove. When last asked October 24-28, 2018, 47 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.

Forty-two percent say the phrase “cares about people like me” describes Trump, while 55 percent say this does not describe him. When last asked in August 2018, 39 percent said “cares about people like me” described Trump and 57 percent said it did not.

Thirty-one percent say “honest” describes Trump, while 62 percent say this does not describe him. When last asked in June 2017, 35 percent said “honest” described Trump and 59 percent said it did not.

Twenty percent say Trump has changed the Republican party for the better, 44 percent say he has changed it for the worse, and 31 percent say he has not changed the party either way. In late October 2018, 28 percent said he had changed the party for the better, 47 percent said he had changed it for the worse, and 21 percent said he had not changed the party either way.

Asked if there is “enough cause right now” for Congress to begin hearings on whether to impeach Trump, 33 percent say there is enough cause and 59 percent say there is not enough cause to begin hearings.

Among all registered voters, 27 percent say they would definitely vote to reelect Trump if the 2020 elections were held today, 12 percent say they would probably vote to reelect him. Eight percent would probably vote for someone else and 49 percent would definitely vote for someone else.

Democratic presidential primary outlook

Democrats and independents were asked about eight announced and potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. With more than a year to go until the Wisconsin presidential primary, many of these candidates are little known to voters.

For each candidate, respondents were asked if this would be a top choice for them, an acceptable choice, someone they would not support, or if they did not know enough about them yet. The results are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Opinion of potential Democratic candidates

Top Choice Acceptable Not support Not heard enough
Joe Biden 32 44 16 7
Bernie Sanders 23 38 28 9
Elizabeth Warren 15 36 17 30
Kamala Harris 8 23 11 54
Cory Booker 8 24 8 56
Beto O’Rourke 12 21 8 56
Amy Klobuchar 5 20 8 62
Julian Castro 4 16 10 65

 State of the state

Fifty-seven percent of Wisconsin registered voters see the state as headed in the right direction, while 33 percent think the state is off on the wrong track. In late October 2018, 55 percent said right direction and 40 percent said wrong track.

In the first Marquette Law School Poll since he took office, Evers’ job approval among registered voters stands at 39 percent, with 22 percent disapproving and 38 percent saying they do not have an opinion.

The Wisconsin legislature has a 52-percent approval rating, with 31 percent disapproval and 16 percent without an opinion.

Evers is viewed favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 24 percent. Another 28 percent say they have not heard enough about him, and 6 percent say they do not know.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is viewed favorably by 13 percent and unfavorably by 17 percent, with 59 percent saying they have not heard enough about him and 11 percent saying they do not know.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is viewed favorably by 24 percent and unfavorably by 19 percent, with 47 percent saying they have not heard enough about him and 10 percent saying they do not know.

For Attorney General Josh Kaul, 16 percent have a favorable view and 7 percent have an unfavorable view. Sixty-seven percent say they have not heard enough about him and 10 percent say they do not know.

For Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the numbers are 16 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable, 67 percent who say they have not heard enough about him, and 9 percent who say they do not know.

The margin of error on this latest poll is +/- 3.9 percentage points for the full sample -- and +/- 5.5 points for some issue questions asked to half the sample.

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