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MU Poll: Johnson, Feingold In Dead Heat; Clinton Keeps Grasp On Wisconsin Lead

Last Marquette Survey Before Election Day Shows Slight Tightening In Both Races

Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson
John K. Wilson, Shawn Johnson/WPR

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll shows Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race is about as close as it gets, with Democrat Russ Feingold leading Republican incumbent Sen Ron Johnson by a margin of just one percentage point, 45-44 among likely voters.

In the race for president, Democrat Hillary Clinton led Republican Donald Trump by 6 percentage points among likely Wisconsin voters, 46-40.

The survey marked a continuation of a trend in the Senate race, where Feingold has led in nearly every public poll but has seen his margin has consistently dwindle.

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Johnson made gains across the board in the latest poll, from his favorability rating, his name ID and the percentage of people who say he cares about them.

Perhaps most notably, he also led Feingold among self-described Independents for the first time since Marquette began polling on the race. Johnson led Feingold 46-40 among independents in this survey. In Marquette’s early October poll, independents favored Feingold 44-37 over Johnson.

“This race is a dead heat and the momentum is clearly with Ron Johnson,” said Johnson communications director Brian Reisinger.

The Feingold campaign seized on different findings. Among those who responded to the Marquette poll, 16 percent said they’d already voted. Among that group, Feingold led Johnson 58-28.

“With less than a week to go, Russ has the clear advantage heading toward Election Day,” said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler. “Wisconsinites are already voting in record numbers.”

Marquette pollster Charles Franklin cautioned that other surveys had shown Feingold with a wider margin. But Marquette’s has shown the race as tight for the past month, which Franklin said made Johnson’s gains among Independents potentially significant.

“If you have a one-point race, practically any group can determine the outcome of the race by shifting just a little bit,” Franklin said.

Franklin said Johnson has closed the gap with Feingold over time.

“Cumulatively it has added up to turning a race that was very lopsided a year ago into one that’s very competitive now,” Franklin said.

Meanwhile, the margin in the presidential race remained larger. Clinton led Trump by six in this Marquette poll after leading him by seven in the last.

Franklin said part of Trump’s problem is that he continues to struggle with Republican voters in the conservative stronghold of southeast Wisconsin. In the same region, Johnson is performing well.

Marquette’s poll also suggested the latest news involving the Clinton email investigation had not dramatically altered the presidential race in Wisconsin.

On Friday, FBI Director James Comey told members of Congress in a brief letter that his office was reviewing newly discovered emails that were connected to the investigation of Clinton’s private email server when she was Secretary of State.

Marquette began interviewing voters Wednesday, Oct. 26 and continued through Monday. In interviews conducted before Comey released his letter, 47 percent of respondents favored Clinton compared to 36 percent for Trump. In Friday interviews, that margin shifted to 48-40, and from Saturday thru Monday, it dipped back down only slightly to 46-40.

The poll of 1,255 likely voters has a margin of error of 3.5 points. It was Marquette’s final survey before Election Day.

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