Gender Gap

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) helped embed that state on the watch list of most national political pundits when he took on public-employee unions. More accurately, it was HOW he did it that seemed to make  the difference. In what he now admits was a brash and confrontational manner, his actions helped the Dairy State become a hotbed of protests, counter-protests, shrill TV ads and general political mayhem. His actions resulted in both a balanced budget and deeply carved lines of demarcation in that state’s political psyche. We polled the state three separate times concerning the controversy in February and March (click HERE for the first, HERE for second, or HERE for the third)–all of which showed Walker and his policies in negative numbers.

The main reason Wisconsin’s reaction to Walker is important to us is that state’s strange (some would say progressive) recall laws that make it remarkably easy to challenge a sitting public official. Currently, the State Senate recall elections are popping up–they don’t all occur on the same day, sort of like playing Whack-a-Mole on a chunk of Wisconsin Swiss cheese. So far, Democrats look strong. (For an overview of the recalls, visit Talking Points Memo HERE.) Walker has tried his hand at damage control as of late, appearing on a number of TV & radio talk shows offering mea culpas concerning the manner and harshness in which he went about his quest. Undoubtedly, his timing was meant to not only help those who are now being challenged with recall votes, but also guard against the potential of his own recall.

For those and other reasons, we’ve dipped back into Wisconsin to ask the good folks there what they think about Gov. Walker these days. For good measure, we also asked for their opinion of President Obama. Here’s the main question we asked:

[box] In general, do you APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of the job Governor Scott Walker is doing? [/box]

A similarly worded question was asked about the President as well along with demographic inquiries. Here are the results:
[For a PDF version of the poll results, click HERE.]

Type of Poll: Automated
Date of Poll: 7/24/2011
Participants: 1,300 Wisconsin residents
Margin of Error: ±2.72%
 APPROVEDISAPPROVENEUTRAL/UNSURE
Scott Walker45.15%52.62%3.92%
By Gender
FEMALE:36.70%60.55%2.75%
MALE:53.72%44.58%1.70%
By Political I.D.
REPUBLICAN:77.28%20.89%1.83%
DEMOCRAT:11.61%86.97%1.42%
INDEPENDENT:48.89%47.88%3.23%
Barack Obama48.08%48.00%3.92%
By Gender
FEMALE:53.67%40.83%5.50%
MALE:42.41%55.26%2.32%
By Political I.D.
REPUBLICAN:13.32%83.03%3.66%
DEMOCRAT:83.18%13.27%3.55%
INDEPENDENT:45.05%50.51%4.44%

As we’ve seen before, there are few sitting on the public-opinion sidelines when it comes to Walker or the president. However, there appears to be a pronounced gender gap, with men siding more for Walker and against Obama. This gap is wider than we’ve witnessed in presidential approval ratings in other states–but Wisconsin has always marched to it’s own drum beat. In past privately conducted Wisconsin-based polls, we’ve seen men’s shift of opinion precede those by  women, but there have been some exceptions to that trend so it is unclear that will happen here. Locals at least partially attribute the continued bad numbers among females to the governor’s war with unions representing teachers. Again, Walker’s strident manner during the loudest moments of the public debate clearly has left residual negative feelings. Still, the Wisconsin state budget was balanced and the structural deficit was addressed, giving the smaller-government aficionados something to admire.

Perhaps more telling is a subtle improvement for Walker by Independents. Last March, Independents offered a 44/54 approve/disapprove ratio for the governor. Today, Walker has pulled even with this all-important sector. However, the recall elections are happening NOW, and the improvement in Walker’s approval ratings may be too late to help anyone but the governor himself.

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