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Poll: Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls still mostly unknown

June 20, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Most voters still don’t know what to think about anyone in the crowd of Democrats running for governor as the August primary rapidly approaches, a poll released Wednesday shows.

Ten Democrats are vying for the chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the November general election. Voters will narrow the field down to one challenger in the Aug. 14 primary.

The Democrats have been campaigning for months but aren’t turning many heads, the Marquette University Law School poll found. More than 60 percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about any of the candidates to form an opinion or don’t know whether they have an opinion.

Wisconsin public schools Superintendent Tony Evers was the best known among all the candidates, but 61 percent still said they didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

No one else in the field managed more than 30 percent recognition among respondents. Milwaukee attorney Josh Pade was the most unknown; 94 percent of respondents said they didn’t have an opinion about him.

A majority of respondents in the last Marquette poll, conducted in March, said they lacked enough information about the Democrats to form an opinion or they had no opinion.

More than 95 percent of respondents have formed an opinion on Walker, who has held office since 2011 and launched a $1.5 million television ad blitz this month. His approval rate was 49 percent, up from 47 percent in March. His disapproval rating was 47 percent, also unchanged from March.

State Democratic Party spokesman TJ Helmstetter said the Democrats’ name recognition will only grow as the primary approaches but Walker has “clearly hit his ceiling.”

Walker campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg declined to comment.

The two Republicans running in the primary for U.S. Senate are still struggling for recognition as well. Sixty-nine percent said they didn’t know enough about Kevin Nicholson to form an opinion; 72 percent said they didn’t know enough about Leah Vukmir to have an opinion about her.

More than 75 percent of respondents have an opinion about incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin. Her approval rating ticked upward, with 41 percent approving of her and 43 percent disapproving. In March her approval rating was 37 percent and disapproval rating was 39 percent.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters between June 13 and Sunday. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

On other topics, the poll found:

—52 percent of respondents felt the state is heading in the right direction; 42 percent felt it is heading in the wrong direction.

—Most respondents — 46 percent — said the new plant Foxconn Technology Group is looking to build in southeastern Wisconsin isn’t worth the $3 billion in state incentives Walker and Republican legislators handed the company. Forty-nine percent said the plant wasn’t worth the investment in March.

Fifty-six percent said they believe the plant will substantially improve the Milwaukee area’s economy, however.

—President Donald Trump’s approval rating in the state improved slightly. Forty-four percent of respondents said they approved of his performance, up from 43 percent in March. His disapproval rating remained unchanged at 50 percent. The poll was conducted before reports of Trump’s decision to separate children from parents caught crossing the border illegally reached a head this week.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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This story has been updated to correct that 41 percent approved of Tammy Baldwin’s performance and 43 percent disapproved.

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