Scott Walker's approval numbers are continuing to improve, making the prospect of recalling him look much tougher for Democrats than it did during the spring.
Walker's still not popular- 47% of voters approve of him, compared to 51% who disapprove. But those numbers represent continuing improvement over the course of the year. He hit his lowest point in PPP's polling in May at 43/54. By August he'd improved to 45/53, and now that improvement has continued over the last couple months. Republicans continue to stand pretty uniformly behind Walker, and Democrats pretty uniformly against him. Where the shift is occurring is with independents. In May only 40% approved of him with 56% disapproving. Now those numbers are almost flipped with 52% approving to 44% who disapprove.
Walker's not out of the woods by any means. 48% of voters in the state want to recall him, while 49% are opposed to such a move. But it's not clear if Democrats will have a candidate strong enough to unseat Walker. The only one who beats him in a hypothetical recall is Russ Feingold. But Feingold's already said he's probably not going to run, and his margin over Walker is just 3 points at 49-46. In May Feingold led Walker 52-42 and in August Feingold had a 52-45 advantage. So even with their strongest possible candidate Democrats' prospects against Walker are slipping.
We tested a whole laundry list of other potential challengers to Walker. 2010 foe Tom Barrett comes closest, but trails Walker 48-46. In May Barrett had a 50-43 advantage in a potential redo. After Barrett the Democrat who comes next closest is David Obey, who trails 47-42. Peter Barca and Ron Kind both trail by 6 points at 48-42 and 47-41 respectively. Jon Erpenbach is down by 7 at 47-40. And Kathleen Falk and Steve Kagen each trail by 8 at 49-41 and 47-39 respectively.
None of the Democrats except Barrett, Feingold, and Obey have greater than 50% name recognition so they'd likely pull closer if any of them actually became the candidate in a recall election. Here's something to keep in mind though: in all of the State Senate elections we were polling over the summer, public opinion moved against recall in the closing days. And that seemed to be the case whether it was a Democratic or Republican State Senator on the ballot. If the recall election was today, Democrats would have just a little bit under a 50% chance of recalling Walker. But if that trend continues of support for the recall declining as election day nears, the chance of Democrats booting Walker from office would continue going down.
None of that is necessarily to say Democrats shouldn't try to recall Walker. Six months from now his approval numbers might be right back in the low 40s and voters might be eager to recall him. But where things stand today the prospects for a Walker recall look much more dim than they did in the late spring and early summer.
One final note on the poll- by a 46-43 margin voters wish Democrats had control of the State Senate, just another data point about how closely divided the state is right now.
Full results here