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Wisconsin state capitol
Wisconsin state capitol
Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. 4/13-15. Likely voters. MoE: ±2.9% (2/23-26 results):
Tom Barrett (D): 45 (49)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 50 (46)
Hari Trivedi (I): 2
Undecided: 3 (3)

Kathleen Falk (D): 43 (48)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 50 (47)
Hari Trivedi (I): 3
Undecided: 3 (5)

Doug La Follette (D): 40 (45)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 51 (46)
Hari Trivedi (I): 3
Undecided: 6 (9)

Kathleen Vinehout (D): 38 (44)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 50 (46)
Hari Trivedi (I): 5
Undecided: 7 (10)

These numbers show a drop for Democrats from PPP's last survey of the race, which of course makes you ask, why? What's changed? Our pollster, Tom Jensen, offers his thoughts:
The biggest change is probably that this was our first time using a likely voter screen, We found with almost all of the recall elections last summer that the electorate just wasn't as Democratic as 2008, even if people were at least more excited about the recalls than they were about the 2010 elections. Gov. Scott Walker gains a few points as a result of that.

The other thing is that independents have flipped from our last poll, from supporting Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett by 12 to going for Walker by three. We've seen independents go back and forth on Walker several times over the last year, though I'm not certain what causes that. Walker's been very aggressive about getting on the air and that may have helped firm up his standing, especially as Democrats fight amongst each other over their nominee.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Dems gain some ground back once they're on the same page after the primary, just as Mitt Romney has gained on Barack Obama here with Republicans on the same page after Rick Santorum's exit.

Indeed, Obama's 53-39 lead over Romney in February is now a much closer 50-44 in this poll. Screening this poll for likely voters (as opposed to just registered voters) has had one other notable effect: Walker's job approval has ticked up, from 47-52 to 51-48. But it's had an even bigger effect on Barrett's favorables, which went from 41-33 to 41-45, a fall of 12 points. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk saw a much smaller net drop of 5, going from 31-42 to 36-52. Barrett's been the target of some tough attacks both from certain unions (which are backing Kane) as well as Walker, who has aired ads going after both leading Democrats, but apparently has made Barrett his focus.

Not much else has changed since PPP was last in the field, though. Demographically, the two polls are quite similar: This newest survey is 32 percent Republican and 31 percent Democratic, while February's was 33 D, 31 R—not a major difference. We've also included Hari Trivedi this time, an apparently wealthy independent who ran a couple of ads touting his candidacy on Super Bowl Sunday. But while it appears he may pull more from Democrats than Scott Walker, even his presence can't account for Walker's higher vote share.

One thing I'd also point out is that because Democrats are focused on the primary right now (which is coming up on May 8), Walker hasn't really been targeted by negative ads yet. There won't be a lot of time (the general election is on June 5), but with Walker stuck at 50 and Democrats likely to rally around their nominee, there's a good opportunity both to drive his numbers down and to see our numbers to move back up.

On a related note, we also tested the Democratic primary (MoE: 3.4%):

Tom Barrett (D): 38 (45)
Kathleen Falk (D): 24 (18)
Doug La Follette (D): 9 (14)
Kathleen Vinehout (D): 6 (6)
Undecided: 22 (17)
As you can see, Barrett's lead has been cut substantially from February, again probably due to the linked changes in the voter screen and his favorability numbers. One thing I'd note is that quite a lot of Republicans and a ton of independents say they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, something permitted under Wisconsin law. Indeed, the primary sample contains 41 percent self-identified Democrats, 40 percent indies, and 19 percent Republicans. Among just Democrats, Barrett has a much wider 49-30 lead, and he also leads 37-23 among independents. (Secretary of State Doug La Follette leads among Republicans with 19 percent, either because he's been around forever or because they perceive him as the weakest candidate and are trying to stage a futile Operation Hilarity of their own.)

Finally, we included a test of the general election ballot in the lieutenant governor's race, where Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is likely to face Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin:

Mahlon Mitchell (D): 40
Rebecca Kleefisch (R): 46
Undecided: 14
In Wisconsin, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected on the same ticket, but election officials ruled they had to be recalled separately. Mitchell is very much unknown, with favors of 12-25, while Kleefisch stands at a 41-40 in terms of job approvals.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Daily Kos.

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