- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke has grown even tighter, with Walker seen as someone “able to get things done” and Burke doing better with women and younger voters, according to poll results released Wednesday.

The Marquette University law school poll found that Walker and Burke are about even among likely voters, with Walker at 48 percent and Burke at 45 percent, a difference that’s less than the margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Among registered voters, a group that might include people who don’t bother to cast a ballot, Walker and Burke each drew 46 percent support.

The results show that Burke has narrowed the gap since March, when she trailed Walker 48 percent to 41 percent among registered voters. The March poll didn’t include numbers for likely voters.

With the election still six months away, Marquette pollster Charles Franklin said the number of people who consider themselves likely to vote will fluctuate. He said the race could come down to which party does a better job of mobilizing its supporters.

“Turnout is one of the biggest unknowns of the fall election,” he said, adding that both campaigns were still in their early stages.

The Burke campaign was quick to capitalize on the poll results, sending out a fundraising email that touted her “undeniable momentum.”

Her campaign spokesman, Joe Zepecki, criticized Walker’s record on job growth and said Burke would do a better job of strengthening the middle class.

“It is clear that voters recognize that Walker’s top-down, trickle-down approach that puts big corporations and special interests ahead of hard working Wisconsinites isn’t working,” he said in a statement.

Walker’s campaign cited the governor’s economic record, saying he created more than 100,000 jobs, turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $911 million surplus and cut taxes by $2 billion.

“We’re confident voters want to continue moving Wisconsin forward and have no desire to return to the failed policies of the past,” Walker spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said in an email.

Burke, a former state Department of Commerce secretary, might be benefiting from her background as a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. When the pollsters asked whether it’s more important for a candidate to have “extensive political experience” or “extensive business experience,” 59 percent of respondents cited a business background, while 38 percent chose political experience.

The preference was consistent among Republicans, Democrats and independents, leading Franklin to speculate that Burke’s campaign will do more to play up her business experience.

The poll also found that 49 percent of voters approve of the job Walker is doing, while 46 percent disapprove and 4 percent aren’t sure. Those figures are essentially steady compared to late March, when his approval rating was 47 percent.

Burke still has work to do to introduce herself to voters. Some 27 percent of registered voters see her favorably and 22 percent unfavorably, but a full 51 percent say they haven’t heard enough about her to decide or don’t know. However, the 51 percent is down from 59 percent in March and 70 percent in January.

Walker did well on a question of whether the term “able to get things done” applies to the candidates. Sixty-eight percent said it applies to Walker compared with 36 percent who said it applies to Burke.

But Burke leads among women, 49 percent to 41 percent. In March, she and Walker were tied among women with 44 percent each.

Burke also did well among voters ages 18 to 44. In March, Walker had a 49-38 advantage with those voters, but Burke now leads 51-41. Walker still does better with voters 45 and older, leading Burke 49-42 in that category.

Walker has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, but Wisconsin residents aren’t too excited about the idea. Only one in four voters wants him to run, while two-thirds do not.

The poll of 805 randomly selected registered voters from across the state was conducted by landline and cellphone between May 15 and Sunday.


Dinesh Ramde can be reached at [email protected]

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