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New poll shows public support for Medicaid expansion, education funding

January 25, 2019

Several proposals championed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers enjoy considerable public support, according to a Marquette Law School Poll released Thursday.

The poll also found Republican President Donald Trump’s support in the state sliding since the fall amid a partial government shutdown. Forty-nine percent of registered voters said they definitely plan to vote for someone else in 2020.

The poll, the first conducted since the November midterm elections, suggests Wisconsinites favor taking federal dollars to expand Medicaid, increasing property taxes to fund public education, upping the minimum wage and legalizing recreational marijuana.

Other policies Evers has voiced support for, such as a nonpartisan redistricting process and a major increase in special education funding, also enjoy strong support.

Respondents favored reducing time served in prisons and withdrawing the state from a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. But a majority opposed raising the gas tax to pay for roads.

The Marquette poll was conducted between Jan. 16-19 among 800 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. Issue questions were asked of half the group and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

The poll found 72 percent of voters support a nonpartisan redistricting process to draw Wisconsin’s political maps while just 18 percent are opposed.

Wisconsin’s controversial gerrymandering case seeking to invalidate the state’s political maps is ongoing after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 remanded the case back to federal district court because it lacked standing. The federal court Wednesday pushed the trial back by at least three months, pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on two similar cases from North Carolina and Maryland.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents said they favor increased state spending on K-12 education, while 39 percent said they instead want to hold down property taxes. Evers is set to propose a $1.4 billion increase in public education spending in his two-year budget.

As for increasing special education funding, 73 percent of voters approve of such a measure, while only 20 percent are opposed, with 7 percent undecided. Evers in his State of the State address Tuesday included a push for a $600 million special education funding increase, which has drawn skepticism from Republican legislators.

Marquette’s latest poll suggests Wisconsinites largely back Evers’ call to take more than $200 million in federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program to help insure an additional 80,000 people.

Sixty-two percent of registered voters polled support taking federal Medicaid expansion dollars, while 25 percent are opposed to such a move and 12 percent say they don’t know.

On Tuesday, Evers vowed to include Medicaid expansion in this budget proposal, while Republicans have remained staunchly opposed to the idea and have warned they would write their own budget instead of working off of Evers’ if he were to include the expansion.

Voters in the state increasingly support legalizing recreational marijuana. Fifty-nine percent of the registered voters polled said they support legalizing recreational cannabis while 35 percent are opposed.

Evers said he plans to include a pathway for legalizing medical marijuana and suggested he supports the eventual legalization of recreational marijuana.

Marijuana legalization — either recreational or medical — would likely face hurdles in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he’s open to medical marijuana but is flatly opposed to allowing recreational use. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has remained wary of both types of legalization.

Public support for the legalization of cannabis has steadily grown since September 2014, when 46 percent favored legalization while 51 percent were opposed.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they support increasing the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Gas tax hike

Evers has said he’s open to a range of options to address the state’s transportation fund woes, including raising the gas tax and registration fees. But public opinion remains opposed to raising the gas tax.

The poll found 52 percent oppose increases to the gas tax to fund improvements to roads and highways, while 42 percent favor an increase.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of respondents favor withdrawing the state from an ongoing lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, while 42 percent think the state should continue to participate.

After a last-minute reversal, Evers on Thursday said he planned to ask the Department of Justice to submit a request to the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee to seek approval to withdraw the state from the suit, which is currently on appeal in federal court.

Evers’ approval

Not yet a month into Evers’ tenure, 39 percent of respondents in the poll approve of Evers’ job performance, while 22 percent of registered voters disapprove. Still, a significant chunk of those polled — 38 percent — said they have no opinion.

The Legislature, which recently ushered through a controversial lame-duck law limiting some powers of the new governor and attorney general, has a 52 percent approval rating. Thirty-one percent of respondents disapprove of the body while 16 percent have no opinion.

Most respondents, 59 percent, said they haven’t heard enough about Vos to form an opinion of him, while 47 percent said the same of Fitzgerald. Vos is viewed favorably by 13 percent and unfavorably by 17 percent, while Fitzgerald was viewed favorably by 24 percent and unfavorably by 19 percent.

Both legislative leaders had a significant role in crafting and passing the controversial lame-duck law, which according to the poll is predominantly viewed in a negative light.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they strongly disapprove of the extraordinary session held in December and 14 percent disapprove somewhat. Only 15 percent said they strongly support the law, while 16 percent approved somewhat.

Trump re-election

Nearly half of those polled — 49 percent — said they would “definitely” not vote for Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, just 27 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect the president, with 12 percent saying they would “probably” vote to re-elect him. Eight percent said they would probably vote for someone else.

Trump’s approval rating has slid since October consistent with national polls. Forty-four percent of respondents said they approve of Trump’s job performance, while 52 percent disapprove. In October, 47 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.

Among eight possible Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren received the most support among poll respondents. A majority hadn’t heard enough to form an opinion about the other five mentioned: Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

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