The View From Wisconsin: Approval of Political Leaders and Hypothetical Voting Intention

September 8, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | US Politics | Wisconsin
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Wisconsin is one of just six states to have a split Senate delegation, and when Joe Biden won the state in the 2020 Presidential Election, it was by a margin of just 0.63%. Over seven months into his term as President, the latest polling by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that the state’s residents continue to be divided on Joe Biden, as well as on Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. When it comes to views of Republican Senator Ron Johnson, however, Wisconsinites are more decisive in their disapproval. 

Firstly, 43% of respondents disapprove of Joe Biden’s overall job performance since becoming President of the United States, while 41% approve. Accordingly, the President has a -2% net approval rating—a figure which increases to +18% among 35-to-44-year-olds and decreases to -9% among those aged 65 and above.

Approval of the President’s performance among 2020 Joe Biden voters is overwhelming, at 82%, while disapproval among 2020 Donald Trump voters is equally overwhelming, at 82% as well. Just 5% of Trump voters indicate that they approve of Biden; similarly, only 9% of Biden voters say they disapprove. 

Although respondents on the whole are largely split on how they assess Joe Biden’s overall performance as President, opinions are more clear-cut on matters of policy. Half (51%) of Wisconsin residents approve of the Biden Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, of which 37% disapprove. Though an evident partisan divide exists on this question, Joe Biden voters are more prevalent in their approval (87%) than Donald Trump voters are in their disapproval (69%). 

A slightly greater proportion of respondents also approve (37%) rather than disapprove (33%) of the Administration’s environmental policies. However, in all other policy areas on which we polled, pluralities or majorities of Wisconsinites convey disapproval of the Administration, including 42% who disapprove with respect to the economy and 46% who disapprove with respect to addressing unemployment. 38% and 36%, respectively, approve of the Administration’s record in these areas. 

In the policy areas of crime/policing, housing, immigration, and defence, roughly a quarter of respondents approve of the Biden Administration’s performance, while pluralities ranging from 41% for housing to 54% for immigration disapprove. Pluralities also disapprove of how the Administration has managed foreign relations with Russia (42%) and China (40%). 

While Joe Biden’s overall net approval rating dips slightly into the negatives, respondents give Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin a truly neutral rating of 0%. Equal thirds approve (34%) and disapprove (34%) of Baldwin’s performance as Senator, while a further quarter (24%) neither approves nor disapproves. The split in opinions of Baldwin falls neatly along partisan lines, with 65% of Biden voters approving and 60% of Trump voters disapproving of her performance.

By contrast, Baldwin’s fellow Senator Ron Johnson elicits a much less favourable net approval rating of -22%, since 49% disapprove and 27% approve of Senator Johnson’s overall job performance. Johnson, a Republican and staunch ally of Donald Trump, enjoys the approval of 45% of Trump voters—though a considerable 31% of Trump voters disapprove of Ron Johnson. Meanwhile, 69% of Biden voters disapprove as well. Johnson has not yet announced if he will seek re-election in the November 2022 Senate Election, but if he does make such a decision, he may face a difficult challenge from both sides of the aisle.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has announced that he will run for re-election in 2022, and his chances look relatively more promising: 45% approve and 38% disapprove of Tony Evers’ overall performance as Governor of Wisconsin. At +7%, Evers is the only politician among the President and Wisconsin Senators to achieve a positive net approval rating.

However, our hypothetical voting intention polling in Wisconsin finds that Evers may be in for a close battle if former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch is the Republican nominee in the 2022 Gubernatorial Election. After weighing by likelihood to vote, 41% say they would vote for Tony Evers and 41% say they would vote for Rebecca Kleefisch if they were the candidates, while 12% say they don’t know how they would vote.

The results are more in Evers’ favour if small businessowner Johnathan Wichmann is presumed to be the Republican nominee, with 43% saying they would vote for Evers and 36% saying they would vote for Wichmann. 12% again say they are unsure. 2020 Donald Trump voters are more likely to say they would vote for Kleefisch (77%) than Wichmann (71%), which partly accounts for the varying outcomes of the two hypothetical scenarios.

Both the 2022 Gubernatorial Election and the Senate Election for Ron Johnson’s seat are races to watch when the midterms come around next autumn. Our polling suggests that Tony Evers is in a better position than Johnson to retain his position, though Evers may also face a formidable challenge from Republicans, perhaps depending on which candidate the party nominates to run in the election.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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