The primary for the Dem Party’s U.S. Senate nomination has tightened dramatically, according to the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll.

Meanwhile, poll Director Charles Franklin said it was “striking” that Gov. Tony Evers had a net-positive job approval rating even as a majority of voters believe Wisconsin is headed in the wrong direction.

And former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch continued to lead the pack for the GOP guv nomination. The poll was taken before wealthy construction company exec Tim Michels got into the field, undercutting the value of the latest survey.

The new poll comes as both Alex Lasry, on leave from his job with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Sarah Godlewski, the state treasurer, have been on the air with TV buys funded largely from their own wealth. Barnes has yet to launch his ad campaign.

The survey found 19 percent of those who say they are likely to vote in the Aug. 9 Dem primary backed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, while 16 percent supported Lasry. Godlewski was at 7 percent, while Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson was at 5 percent.

The February poll had Barnes at 23 percent, Lasry at 13 percent, Nelson at 5 percent and Godlewski at 3 percent.

The new gap between Barnes and Lasry was well within the margin of error for the Dem U.S. Senate sample of plus or minus 6.6 percentage points.

But 48 percent of those who plan to vote in the primary three months from now are undecided.

The poll showed Dems are still unfamiliar with the candidates. Fifty-seven percent didn’t have an opinion of Barnes, the best number of the four leading Dem candidates. More than three-fourths of Dem primary voters didn’t have an opinion of Nelson.

GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a top national target, has begun a regular presence on the airwaves since launching his reelection bid in January.

Still, the movement in his numbers was within the margin of error.

The latest poll found 36 percent of respondents had a positive view of the Oshkosh Republican, while 46 percent didn’t. That’s a slight change from the 33-45 split in February.

Franklin said the latest poll showed voters remain “cranky” with 36 percent of voters saying they believe the state is headed in the right direction, while 56 percent say it’s on the wrong track.

That’s worse than the 39-53 split in the February poll.

Franklin noted a series of factors go into how voters respond to the right track-wrong direction question, including each party blaming the other one for whatever they believe ails the state.

But he noted that 49 percent approve of the job Evers is doing, while 43 percent disapproved. In February, that split was 50-41.

Evers also got good marks for his handling of the coronavirus, with 60 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving. That’s up from a 53-40 split in October, the last time the question was asked. Then, the state was on the verge of a spike in cases, which have dropped significantly since then.

“It’s striking that people can be this pessimistic about the state and its direction and yet still have a net positive approval rating of Tony Evers,” Franklin said.

Among those who plan to vote in the GOP primary, 32 percent said they backed Kleefisch, while 10 percent supported businessman Kevin Nicholson and 4 percent supported state Rep. Tim Ramthun, of Campbellsport.

The margin of error for that question was plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

In February, Kleefisch was at 30 percent, while Nicholson was at 8 and Ramthun 5.

Michels filed to run for guv last week as the poll was still in the field and formally launched his bid Monday.

President Biden continued to be under water, though his numbers were largely unchanged from the last survey.

Forty-three percent approve of the job Biden is doing, while 53 percent disapprove. In February, the split was 43-52.

For other political figures:

*36 percent have a favorable opinion of former President Trump, while 58 percent have a negative one. It was 36-57 in the last survey.
*38 percent approve of the job the state Legislature is doing, while 47 percent disapprove. The split was 37-46 in February.
*43 percent have a favorable opinion of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, while 36 percent have an unfavorable one. It was 42-36 in February.
*12 percent have a favorable view of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, while 29 percent don’t. It was 13-28 in February.

The poll of 805 registered voters via landline and cellphone was conducted April 19-24. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points for the full sample. It included 363 Dem primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.6 percentage points for those respondents. For the 375 GOP primary voters, the margin of error was plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

The partisan makeup of the overall sample, with leaners included, was 45 percent Republican, 44 percent Dem and 9 percent independent. That matches the long-term average since January 2020.

Franklin said the next poll will be out in June.

See the release here.

Watch the poll presentation here.

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