New Poll: Economy, Education Top Concerns in Wisconsin Swing Districts

MacIver News Service | June 2, 2016

[Madison, Wis…] The economy, jobs, and support for K-12 education were the top concerns of Wisconsin voters in selected swing districts in a new Public Opinion Strategies poll commissioned by the Jobs First Coalition and presented at a Wednesday meeting in Madison.

Overall, 30 percent of respondents said improving the economy and jobs situation should be the top goal of the governor and state legislature. Among self-identified Republicans, that number was 34 percent, while 25 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents thought jobs and the economy should be the top priority.

Despite new data from the Federal Reserve district based out of Chicago showing Wisconsin’s economic growth in the top spot among the five Midwest states the district covers, voters in the legislative districts included in the poll still indicate a strong desire for focusing on economic development and job creation.

Jobs and the economy barely edged out improving public education as a top concern of voters polled. Respondents believed funding has been cut too much from public education, though the most recent budget did not cut funding from Wisconsin’s K-12 education system.

Overall, 27 percent said improving public education should be the top priority. Among self-described Democrats, 46 percent said this should be the top priority, while 10 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of independents said the same.

Freezing or reducing property taxes didn’t resonate as well with voters. 32 percent of respondents said they believed their property taxes had increased over the past year, while 39 percent believed their taxes had stayed the same. Only 16 percent said they believed their property taxes decreased during 2015.

Among independents and undecided voters, 40 and 44 percent, respectively, believed their property taxes had stayed about the same during 2015.

Only 5 percent of respondents said they think holding the line on property taxes should be a top priority of the governor and legislature.

The relative lack of concern among voters about their property taxes may have played out in the results of 71 referendums on the ballot during the April 5 election. Out of the 71 total referendums on ballots around the state, voters approved 55 of them, a 77 percent passage rate. The referendums gave school districts $630.6 million in new spending power.

The high passage rate in April is consistent with recent trends. In 2014, for example, 79 percent of all referendums were approved by voters.

The new survey polled 600 likely voters in swing districts throughout Wisconsin. It was conducted from May 22-24 and has a margin of error of 4 percent.