Charles Franklin, Marquette Law School Poll

Charles Franklin is director of the Marquette Law School Poll. 

The latest poll of Wisconsin voters shows President Donald Trump trailing Democrats Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in a potential 2020 match-up.

The Marquette Law School Poll released Wednesday, which surveyed 800 registered voters from Aug. 25-29, gave the former vice president a 9-point edge over Trump with 51% to 42%.

Bernie Sanders, who won the Democratic primary here in 2016 but was the national runner-up to Hillary Clinton, was favored by 48% of respondents while 44% picked Trump. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has polled in the top three nationally along with Biden and Sanders, tied Trump with both favored by 45%.

Numbers fall off considerably from there, Marquette Law School Poll director Charles Franklin said, pointing out that the huge field of candidates “has substantially failed to connect with Wisconsin voters.”

“This is the unique thing we started to see in 2016 with the GOP race,” he added.

Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than a percentage point.

While it’s still more than half a year until the state’s April presidential primary and 14 months until the election, Franklin said early polls can offer a snapshot of how potential voters feel about candidates. He added that much can, and likely will, change between now and the April primary.

“The numbers are movable things aimed at where we stand today, not as predictions of where the final outcome is going to be,” Franklin said.

Doubts on economy

Wisconsinites remain optimistic about the economy, but ongoing trade disputes could be causing that faith to wane.

About 37% of respondents believe the economy has gotten better in the last 12 months, while 25% think it has gotten worse. Looking forward to the next 12 months, however, and only 26% say the economy will get better, while 37% think it will get worse.

“It you’re watching what public confidence in the economy looks like, this is a bit of a downturn from January,” Franklin said.

Breaking those numbers down along party lines found Republicans are more optimistic than Democratic respondents.

About 41% of GOP respondents believe the economy will get better, while 63% of Democratic respondents think it will get worse. Among Independents, who represent about 8% of those polled, 21% think the economy will get better while 33% think it will get worse.

“That 8% can make a real difference as we go through the campaign,” Franklin added.

The margin of error in the poll is about +/-4 percentage points.

Little has changed since the April poll in regard to President Donald Trump’s job approval: 45% of respondents approve of the president’s performance, while 53% disapprove. In April, 46% of respondents approved, while 52% disapproved. In January, those numbers were 44% approval and 52% disapproval.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, said during a Wednesday meeting with reporters that the economy, including the impact of ongoing tariffs, could play a huge role in the 2020 election — especially for Wisconsin farmers.

“When you fly between Camp David and Mar-a-Lago, you don’t know what people are feeling in rural parts of Lafayette County and Sauk County and Iowa County and Dane County who have farms. It’s a very, very different reality,” Pocan said.

Gun control

Respondents’ opinion on gun control legislation also remains relatively unchanged from the April poll, with 80% of voters still supporting expanded background checks.

The poll found 75% of gun owners support background checks, compared with 88% of respondents without a gun in the household.

“Both of those are huge majorities, whether you have a gun in the house or not,” Franklin said.

A new question in this poll found that 81% of respondents support so-called “red-flag laws,” which would prohibit the possession of a firearm by those who have been deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or another person.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last month called for the state to adopt universal background checks and red-flag laws, but Republicans — who hold control of the Legislature — have shown little interest in such measures and instead argue more deliberation is needed.

At the Capitol

The poll found 54% approve of Evers’ job performance, up from 47% in April. His disapproval went from 37% in April to 34% in the latest poll.

Also, 52% approve of the Legislature’s job performance, while 38% disapprove. In April, half of respondents approved of the Legislature’s performance.

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