Swinging Wisconsin Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 1, 2016 — A new Marquette Law School political poll (March 24-28; 1,405 registered Wisconsin voters, 471 “certain” Wisconsin Republican primary voters, 405 “certain” Wisconsin Democratic primary voters) reveals a major swing involving the Republican presidential candidates when compared to the organization’s previous survey taken one month earlier.

With the Wisconsin primary being decided on Tuesday, the latest polls are being taken seriously. According to the just-released data, a net 31-point swing now puts Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) into a significant lead well beyond the margin of error. The late March Marquette results find Cruz leading Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 40-30-21 percent, respectively. At the end of February, Trump held a 30-19-8 percent lead over Cruz and Kasich.

Wisconsin Republican Party leaders chose the Winner-Take-All by congressional district delegate apportionment system, meaning 24 of the state’s 42 delegates will be awarded to the candidate placing first in each of the eight congressional districts (three in each CD). Another 15 are awarded to the statewide winner, while the three Republican National Committee delegates also go to the top at-large vote-getter.

The Marquette poll doesn’t divide the respondent cells into specific congressional districts, but it does segment into media markets. Therefore, we gain a rough idea as to how the delegates might disperse. According to the media market cells, Cruz looks to be winning the Milwaukee city and suburban districts, Kasich the Madison seat, and Trump the western two districts while Cruz rebounds on the northeastern side of the state.

If this rudimentary dissection proves reliable, Cruz would capture the 15 at-large and three party delegates, and win five of the eight CDs, meaning his total delegate take would be 33 of the 42-delegate contingent with Trump securing six votes and Kasich three. Such an outcome would significantly boost the chances of the race falling into a contested nominating convention.

For the Democrats, the Marquette data again suggests a tight race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT). Forecasting the Tuesday vote, Marquette finds Sanders leading Clinton by a tight 49-45 percent count. In the late February poll, Sanders held only a one-point, 44-43 percent edge.

The Democrats use the straight proportion system for all states, but their delegate allocation formula is very complicated and margin of victory helps to determine the final dispersion factor. Wisconsin holds 20 Super Delegates, but only 10 are free agents throughout the convention. Therefore, should Marquette’s prediction prove correct and Sanders win a close statewide victory, the delegates will likely split about evenly. Considering Clinton needs only one-third of the outstanding delegates to secure a national nomination victory, Wisconsin projects to be a Clinton vote goal victory even if she finishes a close second in actual voting.

Marquette also looked at the impending US Senate race, one of the most important for determining which party will claim the majority in the next Congress. Wisconsin has for months appeared to be the Democrats’ second-best conversion opportunity, and some argue its prime. But, this new data suggests a tightening of the race in Republican incumbent Ron Johnson’s favor.

From this survey, former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) continues to lead, but with a reduced 47-42 percent margin. Among those describing themselves as “certain” voters, Feingold’s advantage drops even further to 48-45 percent.

Looking at turnout projections, 54 percent of the total likely voter sample said they are choosing to participate in the Republican primary versus the remaining 46 percent who will cast Democratic ballots. The sample included 60 percent of Independents who said they would vote in the Republican contest. These numbers are consistent with what we have already witnessed in the 31 of the 35 states that have already recorded their citizens’ votes.

Marquette Law began polling in conjunction with Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) forced recall campaign in 2012. They have regularly surveyed the Wisconsin electorate ever since with a strong accuracy rate.

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