New Marquette Poll Forecasts Tight Statewide Races as Candidates Schedule Debates

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll, released September 14, shows a tight statewide race between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his Republican challenger, construction executive Tim Michels. Among likely voters, 47 percent said they support Gov. Evers, while 44 percent support Michels. The margin of error for likely voters was 4.9 percent.

The previous Marquette poll, conducted immediately following the August 9 primary election, similarly showed Gov. Evers leading Michels 48-44 among likely voters. A handful of other polls conducted post-primary have shown the incumbent with an advantage of zero to three points, within each poll’s margin of error.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is running for a third term against Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D). The September Marquette poll showed Sen. Johnson leading his challenger 49-48 among likely voters, a huge swing from the previous month’s poll that found Lt. Gov. Barnes ahead by seven percentage points, 52-45 among likely voters. Two other August polls found Barnes leading Johnson by two and four points among registered voters.

Both statewide races are attracting significant national attention and millions of dollars in candidate and third-party spending on advertising.

Marquette University Law School plans to release two more statewide polls of Wisconsin voters before the general election on November 8.

Statewide Candidates Schedule Debates

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) and WISN-TV will sponsor one gubernatorial debate between Michels and Gov. Evers on Friday, October 14. The debate is expected to begin at 7 PM local time and last for about an hour. It will be moderated by Jill Geisler, a media professor at Loyola University Chicago and former Milwaukee-area TV news director. A panel of television and radio journalists will provide questions for the candidates. The debate will be available for broadcast by all WBA member stations.

The managers of the Evers and Michels campaigns released a joint statement about the debate: “There are plenty of differences between the two candidates, but we agree that voters deserve this opportunity to hear directly from each candidate. This will be the only debate between the candidates before the November election.”

This is the fewest number of gubernatorial debates since 1998. From 2002 to 2018, the major party candidates for governor debated one another two to four times during the general election.

So far, Sen. Johnson and Lt. Gov. Barnes have also agreed to participate in one debate, sponsored by WTMJ, WisPolitics, and the Milwaukee Business Journal. It will be held at Marquette University in Milwaukee on Thursday, October 13. WBA also proposed a debate between the U.S. Senate candidates on October 7; Johnson has accepted that invitation, while Barnes has yet to accept or decline. Meanwhile, Barnes plans to appear at an upcoming candidate forum hosted by the Main Street Alliance and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. Johnson has been invited but has not yet publicly responded.