Gov. Scott Walker has pulled ahead of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with just a few weeks before Wisconsin's historic recall race, a poll released Wednesday said.
The new Marquette University Law School poll showed Walker taking a lead of 6 percentage points among likely voters, with 50 percent of those polled saying they would vote for the governor and 44 percent saying they would back Barrett.
The numbers were far closer just two weeks ago, when a poll released shortly before the May 8 recall primary showed Walker and Barrett in a virtual dead heat. That poll showed Walker leading by 1 percentage point, 48 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters. Barrett, who lost to Walker in the governor's race in November 2010 by about 123,000 votes, or 5 percentage points, led 47 percent to 46 percent among registered voters in the previous Marquette poll.
Wednesday's results were similar to the Marquette poll from January, which also showed Walker leading 50 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.
In the latest poll, just 3 percent of likely voters said they were undecided.
"In a close election with so few undecided voters, enthusiasm, turnout and campaign contact with voters may make the difference," said Charles Franklin, Marquette University Law School's poll director.
Those polled reported having mixed feelings about Walker. Some 37 percent said they like what Walker has done as governor, while 38 percent said they did not. Another 22 percent said they liked what he has done as governor, but they don't like how he has done it. Walker's job approval was 50 percent, while 46 percent disapprove.
Voters also continue to have negative opinions about jobs in Wisconsin. Some 37 percent said the state has lost jobs in the past year, 20 percent said the state gained jobs, and 38 percent said they had seen no change.
When asked what poll results had surprised him most, Franklin said it was the movement in the wake of the primary: "Barrett wins the primary strongly, yet falls behind in the trial heat."
The poll interviewed 704 registered voters in Wisconsin by both land line and cellphone May 9-12. Among that group there were 600 "likely voters," or those who said they were certain to vote.
The margin of error was about 4 percentage points.
The poll also found that Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was leading Democratic challenger Mahlon Mitchell, a Madison firefighter and president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, 47 percent to 41 percent among likely voters. And it found that President Barack Obama was tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 46 percent each among likely voters.