Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has been a lighting rod since first being elected in 2010. Walker’s take-no-prisoner persona early in his first term exacerbated the polarizing reforms he promoted and muscled through the state legislature. The subsequent highly charged political atmosphere led to a hard-fought recall election which Walker won handily. In speeches, Walker continues to somewhat rue his role in the rhetoric that dominated the period and has become a sought-after speaker for pro-smaller government and business groups around the country. In a recent event in Illinois where Walker was the keynote speaker, the crowd — which was made up of business types who are accustomed to oceans of state government red ink — literally gasped when Walker touted turning Wisconsin’s big deficit into a tidy surplus.
But everyone likes other states’ leaders, and Walker isn’t traveling the nation to talk about the things that aren’t working so well for the state. His opponent will cherry pick statistics that paint a gloomy picture of Wisconsin (for example, employment numbers aren’t great), but Walker’s successes are viewed by many as genuine and he’s good at projecting the glass as half full.
Clearly, the effect of Walker’s reforms and accomplishments will not be fully measured before next year’s election. With Wisconsin’s economy viewed as “treading water” and the discontent from last year’s political wars still fresh in the minds of voters, how will the public view Scott Walker now?
As with all governors in this series of polls, we asked likely Wisconsin voters a straightforward and simply worded question: “Do you approve or disapprove of the job Governor Scott Walker is doing?”
Here are the results:
Poll type: Automated - Date: May 8-9, 2013 - Participants: 1,081 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3.1%
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As we pointed out in yesterday’s initial poll in in this series, these approval ratings are probably as much a measure of voters’ opinion of state government as a guide to re-electability. Gov. Walker’s overall approval rating now is nearly identical to what we saw in July, 2011 although he seems to have lost some mojo among Independents. Yet, Walker survived a nasty recall attempt and has lived to see some positive results from his efforts. Assuming he runs again, he’ll face a Democratic opponent who won’t have President Obama leading the ticket. Still, many Wisconsin voters continue to carry the scars of the uncivil war that broke out after Walker’s ramrod approach to his reforms blew up.
We believe that–once again–Wisconsin will be among the most politically interesting states to watch in 2014.