Sanders leads in Wisconsin; GOP Race Close; VA Privatization Issue Hurts Johnson

| Tom Jensen

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin, conducted on behalf of VoteVets Action Fund, finds Bernie Sanders as the favorite in the state’s Democratic primary. Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 49-43, with 8% of voters still undecided. Clinton leads among actual Democratic voters in the state, 50-42. But Sanders has an overwhelming advantage with independents at 62/31, and that gives him the overall advantage in this open primary. Sanders is strong with voters under 45 (a 65/28 lead), those who identify as ‘very liberal’ (59/37), and men (56/39). The only group Clinton has a substantial lead with is seniors, at 63/30.

The Republican race is close, with Ted Cruz at 38% to 37% for Donald Trump and 17% for John Kasich. There are indications within the numbers that Cruz could win a wider victory though. In a head to head match up with Trump he leads 49/41. That’s because Kasich voters prefer him over Trump by a 51/19 spread. Only 63% of Kasich voters say they’re definitely going to vote for him (Cruz and Trump are both over 80% on that metric), so if his supporters end up moving to one of the top two it could mean a wider Cruz victory.

GOP voters in Wisconsin have positive views of both Kasich (52/30) and Cruz (50/36). Trump is on negative ground, with only 45% of voters seeing him favorably to 48% who have an unfavorable opinion of him. In an unusual twist Cruz voters (83%) are more solidly committed to their candidate than Trump voters (81%) are. This is the first poll we’ve ever done where we didn’t Trump with the most locked in base of support. Cruz is being fueled by a 53/32 advantage among voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative.’ Cruz also leads with women (39/32) by a margin wide enough to overcome the one Trump has with men (40/36).

Ron Johnson continues to be in deep trouble for reelection. Only 35% of voters approve of him to 42% who disapprove, and he trails Russ Feingold 46/39 in a head to head match up. One issue that may be hurting Johnson is his support for privatizing the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Only 24% of voters in the state support doing that, to 68% who disapprove. There’s bipartisan opposition to the proposal with Democrats (76/15), independents (68/24), and Republicans (57/33) all strongly opposed to the concept. 57% of voters say Johnson’s stance on VA privatization makes them less likely to vote for him, compared to only 29% who consider it a positive. Among the critical independent voters who will make or break Johnson’s reelection chances, 58% are less likely to support him because of this stand.

Another thing hurting Johnson is the generally poor brand of Senate Republicans, which is being reinforced by their obstructionism on the Supreme Court issue. Only 12% of voters in Wisconsin approve of the job Mitch McConnell is doing as Senate Majority Leader, to 46% who disapprove. Association with McConnell is a big problem for Johnson. Beyond that voters want to see the Supreme Court seat filled this year by a 52/38 spread, including 51/41 with key independent voters. That’s another issue where Johnson’s position is hurting his chances of returning to the Senate next year.

Finally we found 65% of voters in Wisconsin are more likely to vote for a candidate who believes the United States must do all it can to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels by embracing measures like solar, wind, and renewable fuels. There’s bipartisan agreement on that front- 82% of Democrats, 56% of independents, and 53% of Republicans are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports moving more toward cleaner energy sources.

Full results here


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