The first poll conducted after this week’s gubernatorial primaries shows Democrat Tony Evers leading Republican Gov. Scott Walker by five points.
The poll, conducted by the liberal firm Public Policy Polling, surveyed nearly 600 Wisconsin voters on the two days following Tuesday’s primary election, Aug. 15 and 16.
Evers received support from 49 percent of those surveyed, compared to Walker’s 44 percent. Seven percent were undecided. The margin of error was 4 percent.
"I think Scott Walker is in trouble," said Jim Williams, polling analyst at Public Policy Polling. "I think we have a nominee (in Tony Evers) who is in strong position, relative to Scott Walker, and is potentially looking to get stronger as his party coalesces behind him."
The poll, which was conducted by phone, skewed slightly toward Democrats, with 36 percent of respondents identifying themselves as Democratic voters. Thirty-five percent identified as independents and 29 percent as Republicans.
"I think Scott Walker is in trouble," said polling analyst Jim Williams. "I think we have a nominee (in Tony Evers) who is in strong position, relative to Scott Walker, and is potentially looking to get stronger as his party coalesces behind him."
However, respondents in this poll were an even split in the 2016 presidential race — 45 percent said they voted for President Donald Trump and 45 percent for Hillary Clinton. Ten percent said they voted for another candidate or did not vote. That tracks closely to Wisconsin's 2016 election results, when Trump won with 47 percent of the vote to Clinton's 46 percent.
Evers’ campaign lauded the results as a sign that Wisconsin voters are "ready for a change."
"It’s just the first week of the general election campaign, but voters already embrace Tony Evers’ positive agenda to fix our roads, improve our schools, and lower the cost of health care," said Maggie Gau, Evers’ campaign manager.
A spokesman for Walker's campaign said the governor is preparing for a difficult race.
"Scott Walker has been preparing for a tough campaign where he'll have to earn every vote to withstand a flood of money from big government special interests from Washington," said Walker campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger. "We have no doubt this will be the case despite Evers' shocking and disgraceful record of failing to protect our children."
The state GOP released an ad this week criticizing Evers' handling of a case involving a teacher watching pornography at school.
In the survey, 46 percent said they approve of Walker’s job performance. Fifty percent said they disapprove.
When asked if Walker would "make any changes in his next term to fix our roads, invest in our schools and lower health care costs" if re-elected, 44 percent said he would, 49 percent said he would not, and 7 percent weren’t sure.
Those three issues are top priorities for Evers’ campaign. They are also featured in the first ad for Evers paid for by an outside group, which premiered this week.
The governor has been moving in recent days to temper GOP expectations for the first post-primary polling.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Walker told supporters at a campaign stop last weekend, "You could have Daffy Duck on the ballot for the Democrats, and they’ll start out with at least 48 percent of the vote."
Williams, the analyst at Public Policy Polling, disputed that.
"I would expect to see Democrats not fully coalesced around the nominee quite yet," he said.
Two polls released before the primary election also showed Evers leading Walker. An NBC News/Marist College Poll released July 26 showed Evers leading Walker by 13 points. An Emerson College poll from July 30 had Evers beating Walker 48 percent to 41 percent, with 7 percent of voters still undecided.
A new survey of Wisconsin voters conducted by the Marquette University Law School is slated to be released next week.