A new Marquette University Law School survey finds Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) running behind Mandela Barnes, the current lieutenant governor of Wisconsin and the Democratic challenger in this year’s race for Johnson’s Senate seat.
In the numbers, which reflect the responses of overall registered voters questioned in the poll, 49 percent went for Barnes, and 42 percent selected Johnson. The rest picked either “neither” or “don’t know,” or they refused the question. Those who selected “neither” or “don’t know” were evidently asked if they’d lean towards Barnes or Johnson, and nearly half that group indicated a lean, although those secondary results didn’t shift the overall outcome of the survey much. Two percent of the remaining overall total indicated they leaned towards Johnson, while one percent picked Barnes. Adding in those who said they lean towards one of the candidates, Barnes still leads by seven percentage points, according to rounding from the pollster. This survey is the first in the Senate race (as cataloged by FiveThirtyEight) since Wisconsin’s primaries.
In the same poll, significantly more voters said they had an unfavorable view of Johnson, who’s currently in his second term, than a favorable one. A full 47 percent of respondents indicated an unfavorable view, while 38 percent shared a favorable one. Just 15 percent said they didn’t know or hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion. For comparison, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the other U.S. Senator currently representing Wisconsin, had higher favorable views than unfavorable ones, although the portion indicating they didn’t know enough or had no opinion was higher than with Johnson. For Baldwin, 39 percent indicated a favorable view, and 37 percent shared an unfavorable perspective.
Baldwin isn’t up for re-election this year — although the state’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers will be on the ballot, and new Marquette numbers also found Evers leading his November Republican opponent, Tim Michels. Factoring in those who indicated a lean towards one of the candidates when asked a follow-up question, Evers leads by two percent. Forecasts from FiveThirtyEight suggest Evers will win. Biden won the state in the 2020 election, indicating a formidable level of support in the state for Democratic candidates.
Holding the Wisconsin governorship will provide an important line of defense against potential attempts at voter suppression from Republicans in the state legislature. Earlier this year, Evers vetoed eight elections-related bills passed by Republican legislators, including one that would’ve allowed greater control by state legislators over administrative guidance for the conducting of elections. Another bill would have barred anyone besides individual voters, their family members, or legal guardians from returning their absentee ballots to authorities. Some voters — like disabled individuals — may need assistance with returning their absentee ballots, and there’s no evidence of widespread abuse of the ballot-return process. The Wisconsin state Supreme Court later opted to mandate only voters can return their absentee ballots in person, although some Wisconsin residents may be physically unable to do so.
A federal lawsuit was filed challenging that change in policy, alleging it violates pieces of federal law including the Voting Rights Act. Another one of the bills Evers vetoed would’ve demanded state checks on whether registered voters were U.S. citizens, which would constitute an invasive and pointless process considering the lack of widespread voting by non-citizens.