Barry McNamara  |   Published March 31, 2016

New poll

Latest Monmouth College poll takes pulse of Wisconsin voters prior to primary
As Wisconsin primary voters prepare to go to the polls on April 5, a new Monmouth College poll sheds new light into the minds of the state’s electorate.

The poll showed Democrats holding a slight 7-point lead in Wisconsin’s presidential contest this fall. Forty-three percent of Wisconsinites said they’d like to see a Democrat win the presidency in November, while 36 percent preferred a Republican candidate. Eighteen percent said they were unsure.

While Monmouth College polls prior to the Iowa caucuses concentrated on who would emerge as their respective party’s leading candidates, the Wisconsin poll focused more on issues, including such provocative topics as secession and response to armed activists.

“Following the recent standoff between the FBI and armed anti-government activists in Oregon, we asked Wisconsonites how police forces should respond to armed activists occupying a federal building,” said Nathan Kalmoe, assistant professor of political science, who created the poll, along with department colleague Robin Johnson, who also hosts KBUR-AM’s Talking Politics show. “In this randomized experiment, we asked about a mix of activist groups, including anti-government, gun rights, anti-abortion, black activists and Muslim activists.”

On average across all groups, the most popular response was for police to surround the building and wait (35 percent), followed by storming the building but holding fire unless fired upon (32 percent). Seventeen percent said police snipers should shoot occupiers as police storm the building. Five percent said to ignore the protesters, while 9 percent said to change the policies the group is protesting.

Across all activist groups, Republicans were three times more favorable toward the most violent police response (27 percent) compared to Democrats (8 percent).

“This is in keeping with traditionally greater Republican support for law and order, the death penalty and military action,” said Kalmoe, who has researched and written extensively on violence and language.

Donald Trump supporters most often favor an aggressive approach in all categories except pro-life, including 71 percent for Muslim activists, 38 percent for anti-government activists, 30 percent for gun rights activists and 29 percent for black activists.

Support for the most violent response was highest when activists were Muslims (53 percent Republicans, 17 percent Democrats and 35 percent overall). Anti-abortion activists were the exception for both parties, with Republican support for the most violent option falling to 10 percent, and Democrats’ support rising to 10 percent.

Among the poll’s other findings were:
  • An equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans (38 percent) identify as working class.
  • One third of Wisconsin Republicans say neither party cares about the working class – “Another indictment of their party establishment,” said Johnson.
  • Following national trends, Hillary Clinton doesn’t fare as well with Wisconsin working-class voters, except among blacks.
  • President Obama is viewed favorably by middle-class Wisconsin respondents (56 to 37 percent) and by 49 to 41 percent among working-class respondents. 
  • Equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans say they plan to support their party’s candidate in November (82 and 84 percent, respectively). Four percent of Democrats are considering support for a Republican, and 1 percent of Republicans are considering a Democrat. 
Considering the level of dissatisfaction that voters in both parties have with the remaining presidential candidates, poll respondents were asked whether secession from the United States would be a good idea or worth considering after November. Twice as many Republicans as Democrats (18 to 9 percent) responded in favor, while 72 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats said secession would be a bad idea.

The poll of 576 likely voting Wisconsin residents was taken last month and has a margin of error of +- 4.1 percent. It was conducted by Douglas Fulmer and Associates. Seventy-six of the responses were live calls to cell phones and the remainder were automated calls.

View complete poll results
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