As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seeks a third term to lead the state, voters are split evenly in their opinions of the job he's doing, according to a new Marquette University Law School poll.
Walker's approval ratings have not changed significantly since voters were last asked in June 2016. Among 800 registered voters surveyed during the last week of February and beginning of March, 47 percent said they approve of Walker's job performance, while 47 percent disapprove.
More good news for Walker came from 53 percent of voters who said the state is heading in the right direction, compared to 42 percent who believe it is on the wrong track.
But voters were less generous in their opinions of the state's $3 billion deal with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, which plans to build a facility in southeastern Wisconsin. A majority, at 49 percent, said they believe Wisconsin is paying more in incentives than the project is worth. Thirty-eight percent said they think the state will get its money's worth, while 13 percent were uncertain.
Voters throughout the state were even less convinced that the project will benefit businesses near them, with only 25 percent responding positively to the question. However, 57 percent of those surveyed think the project will benefit the Milwaukee-area economy.
The results reflect a perception detailed in University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Kathy Cramer's research, of "folks outside of the major metro areas … seeing their regions being ignored and disadvantaged relative to the Milwaukee and Madison areas in particular," said poll director Charles Franklin.
Some Democratic candidates aiming to challenge Walker have sought to make the Foxconn deal an issue in the campaign.
At this point in the election cycle, voters have more opinions on Foxconn than they do about the crowded Democratic gubernatorial field.
Of nine candidates mentioned in the poll, state schools superintendent Tony Evers was the most well-known, with 66 percent of voters who said they don't know enough about him to have an opinion. Seventy-one percent did not know enough to have an opinion about Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, the second-most known candidate.
Although the Democratic candidates are largely unknown to voters, enthusiasm among Democrats is up from 2014. Sixty-four percent of Democrats are "very" enthusiastic about voting in 2018, up from 52 percent in 2014. The percentage of Republicans who are "very" enthusiastic about voting this year is largely unchanged, at 54 percent from 55 percent.
Two signature Walker initiatives have seen different trajectories in public opinion over time.
Most voters — 46 percent — said the state should keep Act 10, the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees, on the books. That's down slightly from 50 percent in May 2012. The percentage of voters who said those bargaining powers should be restored has dropped from 43 percent to 41 percent.
But public opinion on prioritizing property tax cuts over increased K-12 school funding has moved substantially since 2014, when 49 percent said they favored cutting property taxes and 46 percent said they would like to see more money spent on schools. Asked now, 33 percent preferred lower property taxes while 63 percent said they would rather increase public school spending.