© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wisconsin U.S. Senate race tightens, Marquette pollster calls it a 'toss-up'

Mandela Barnes and Ron Johnson
Scott Olson, Alex Brandon-Pool
Getty Images
Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes falls one point behind Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in the September Marquette Poll.

The latest Marquette University poll on this year's Wisconsin U.S. Senate race shows a bit of a reversal from one month ago, and the race is now being called a toss-up. Republican incumbent Ron Johnson has taken a one point lead over Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Barnes led by 7 percentage points in August.

The phone survey of 632 likely voters took place September 6-11, and has a margin of error of nearly 5%.

READ: Poll shows Evers maintains small lead over Michels in Wisconsin race for governor

Marquette pollster Charles Franklin says the roughly five-point polling boost Barnes seemed to receive from winning the Democratic Senate primary on Aug. 9 has disappeared.

"So, it's not surprising this would shift. But the other thing is obvious—that Lt. Gov. Barnes faced very little criticism during the Democratic primary," says Franklin. "There weren't attack ads from his primary opponents, and the party coalesced behind him."

Since the primary, Senator Johnson and supporting conservative groups have aired a torrent of negative ads aimed at Barnes. Franklin says those may have swayed a lot of independent voters.

"Last month, independents were hugely for Barnes. 55 to 40, coming right off the primary victory. But this time, they're leaning to Johnson by two points, 48 to 46," says Franklin.

Franklin also says Barnes has slipped a tiny amount among Democrats, while Johnson has gained slightly among Republican voters.

The pollster says he's not a campaign manager and is not telling any candidate what to do. But Franklin says the new poll shows Johnson still has a key weakness

"I think the striking thing is Johnson's image remains negative across most of the things we measure. Barnes has gone from being quite positive to barely even or slightly negative. But that's where the movement was, not movement either raising Johnson's image or lowering it for that matter," says Franklin.

The poll shows Johnson remains underwater, as the pollsters say, on whether he shares voters' values, whether he understands the problems of ordinary people and on voters' opinion of the two-term Senator.

Wisconsin's midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.


Related Content