Walker Wins the Week

Polls, jobs, and graduation rates all trend upwards for recall incumbent

May 19, 2012

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, facing a recall election next month, saw poll, job, and high school graduation numbers all tick upwards this week.

A Marquette Law School survey of likely recall voters released May 16 has Walker up six points over his Democrat opponent Tom Barrett, 50 percent to 44 percent. In two other major polls, Walker enjoyed a five-point lead.

University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Charles Franklin, a visiting Marquette professor who has been conducting the law school’s polls, wrote in an email to the Free Beacon that "the consistency of the recent polls is striking."

"Rasmussen has Walker ahead by five, two PPP polls have Walker ahead by five, and our poll has Walker up six," Franklin wrote. "Our previous poll in late April showed Walker up by 1."

"This remains a tight race and could easily tighten again before June 5," Franklin continued. "Still, the consistency across polls, coming from different partisan leanings in the case of Rasmussen and PPP, shows Walker has opened a small lead with just over 2 weeks to go."

Walker also leads Barrett, who is the mayor of Milwaukee, in the survey’s favorability ratings. Fifty percent of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of Walker, while 45 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of Barrett, compared with a 45 percent unfavorable opinion.

Fifty percent of registered voters said they feel things in Wisconsin are going in the right direction, while 45 percent said things have gotten off on the wrong track.

The ire over Walker’s collective bargaining reforms has also lessened. Fifty percent of respondents said they do not wish to overturn Walker’s law; 43 percent do wish to overturn it.

The Walker campaign also enjoyed favorable numbers on jobs and unemployment this week. The state released new quarterly census data indicating Wisconsin gained 23,000 jobs in 2011—a large improvement over previous numbers that showed a loss of 33,900 jobs.

"Today’s numbers are just another indication that under Governor Walker, Wisconsin is headed in the right direction," a Walker campaign spokesperson said in a statement. "While the unemployment rate has been on the steady decline—today dropping to 6.7 percent—since Governor Walker took office, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has presided over a 28 percent increase in unemployment."

University of Wisconsin-Madison economist Andrew Reschovsky said in an interview with the Free Beacon that, while the job-growth in the state was "pretty sluggish," the data appear correct.

"The truth is we don’t have job loss, we have job gain," Reschovsky said.

The numbers are especially bad news for Barrett, who has pivoted to pummeling Walker on his jobs record. During Walker’s first year in office, Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State Democrats dismissed the new numbers as unverified and a political ploy. Wisconsin Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said: "By releasing this data—which will not be reviewed until June 28—Governor Walker's partisan political cronies are clearly trying to artificially improve the governor's worst-in-the-nation jobs performance."

But the public appears to be siding with Walker. When the Marquette survey asked which candidate would be better for creating jobs in the state, 48 percent of registered voters picked Walker, compared with 41 percent for Barrett.

Graduation rates are rising in the Badger State, as well. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reported Thursday that high-school graduation rates in 2011 were 90.5 percent, up six-tenths of a percentage point from the 2009-2010 school year and up 1.1 points from the 2008-2009 school year.