Wisconsin Governor’s Race: Analyzing Evers’ Win & What’s Next

Nov 8, 2018

Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers says he's busy putting together his transition team. His comments came after Gov. Scott Walker conceded defeat Wednesday afternoon. The Republican had won statewide office twice, surviving a recall election. So, why couldn't Walker pull off a win this time around?

UW-Madison political science professor David Canon says that Evers won, in part, because of demographics — namely age, gender and education.

1. What was behind Evers' Win?

"Unlike four years ago, the college graduates went heavily for Evers over Walker. There's a 13-point gap there with 56 percent of those with a college degree voting for Evers and only 43 percent for Walker," says Canon.

"Second would be the youth vote, and that, too, was a big swing from 2014. This year the 18-29-year-old vote broke 60-37 for Tony Evers, whereas last time there was only a 4 or 5-point difference there ... there was also almost a 43 percent youth turnout, which is basically double the previous national record."

"Finally, on gender, there was a 9-point gender gap with 54 percent of women voting for Evers and only 45 percent for Walker."

2. What compelled those demographic groups to vote for Evers?

"If you look at the issues then, by far and away the big issue really helping Evers was health care," says Canon. "Both younger voters and women are concerned about it. Through Obamacare, many people under 26-years-old can stay on their parents' health insurance. If Obamacare was repealed and replaced, they would lose that coverage."

"Nearly half of the voters in exit polls said health care was their most important issue, and of those, they broke almost three to one for Evers over Walker," he says.

3. Anything else besides health care that worked against Walker?

"The other big issue was Donald Trump," says Canon. He says 94 percent of voters who strongly approved of President Donald Trump voted for Walker, and 94 percent of voters who strongly disapproved of  Trump voted for Evers. 

"But the thing that really helped Evers there is that there were many more voters who strongly disapproved of Trump rather than approving: 43 percent compared to 29 percent," he says.

He says there was a separate question as to whether one was motivated to vote by opposition to Trump or Voting in favor of Trump, and says 34 percent said they were expressing opposition to Trump, and only 22 percent were voting in favor of Trump.

"So it did seem that Donald Trump was a drag on the Republican ticket here in Wisconsin," he says.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing Evers going forward?

"Well, clearly, the biggest challenge that Evers has going forward is the fact that he faces Republican majorities in the assembly and the senate," says Canon. "So, there's not a whole lot that the governor can do on his own, he's going to need the support from the legislature for any changes in laws that he wants to make."

5. What policy changes do you think that Evers will go after first?

"I would say infrastructure is going to be the area that he has the most opportunity to work with Republicans," says Canon. "Possibly down the road, the expansion off Medicaid to cover low-income Wisconsin residents ... It's actually a really good deal for the taxpayers. You end up saving the state a lot of money by getting that aid from the federal government to help fund our healthcare for poor people who are just above the poverty line."

He says given that Medicaid expansion is a fiscally conservative position, that might be another area where Evers and the legislature could work together.