A walk through the WPR/St. Norbert Poll showing Walker’s 55% to Burke’s 40%


Photo credit: Mervyn Chua


  • This survey relies upon a SMALL sample size of 401 people. They were randomly selected Wisconsinites over 18-years-of-age who answered their cell or landline phones between 3/24 and 4/3, 2014. The error rate on this is +/- 5% at the 95% confidence level.
  • The poll shows that 8% of self-identified Democrats would vote for Walker. Something is wrong with this poll.
  • Respondents are not necessarily registered voters.
  • It’s very early in the campaign for low-information voters. At least a third of these people are on the low-info side.
  • I think this small sample leans more conservative than the 37% “Republican” / 32% “Democrats” / 25% “Independent” split reported. In this walk-through I explain why.

With that out of the way let’s meander through this WPR/St. Norbert survey.

Burke vs. Walker:


Check out Walker’s 16% advantage in the “Of Likely Voters” category. So this is shocking and yet it sort of makes sense. Older people are in that likely voter camp.

Now I’ll add the “Totally Committed”, “Somewhat Committed”, “Might Change Mind” graph.

commitment 2

Out of those people polled who call themselves “totally committed to a candidate”, 64% were for Walker and 35% were for Burke.

To gain ground in this walk-through-glass-for-the-candidate zone, Burke could make some exciting, popular, declarative statements.

But her campaign has been working hard to deliver inoffensive and/or unclear messages.  **

Another flummoxing result of the survey:
53% of the self-identified Independents say they will vote for Walker. Could these be Tea Party-identified “Independents”? It’s too bad we don’t get that breakdown in the data.

The most dumbfounding result in the whole poll: 8% of self-identified Democrats would vote for Walker. I’ve just NEVER met a Dem who said “I’d vote for Walker.”

Would these people be the mythological voted-for-Obama-and-voted-for-Walker voters we’ve heard about but never met?


Here’s another result which reinforces the notion that there is a lack of fire in the belly for Burke:
somewhat favorable to very favorable burke and walker norbert

Note that 14% of the respondents have not even heard of Burke and 13% of them have heard of her but are just “Not Sure” what they think of her.

Also note that Walker is a polarizing love him or hate him guy with 28% and 29% falling in the categories of “Very Favorable” and “Very Unfavorable”.

Check out how Burke’s got the bulk of her respondents in the middling “Somewhat” categories.

She’s so middle of the road that even in THIS regard she is middling! For the optimistic among you, this shows plenty of potential is there for Burke.

And who are the people in this smallish sample?

They skew conservative by their own self-definition: 37% of the people randomly polled identify as “Republican” vs. 32% who would call themselves “Democrats” and 25% who say they are “Independent”. Then there is “Other” of 6%.  What’s that?!

dem gop independent

This whole thing leaning conservative makes sense given the poll methodology.

According to famed pollster Nate Silver (who was commenting on Rasmussen’s technique at the time), “If you just call people up and see who answers the phone, you will tend to get too many women, too many old people, and too many white people.”

For kicks, and to gain some point of comparison, I wanted to pluck a result from this WPR/St. Norbert poll and compare it to a recent Marquette poll as well as a national poll. I looked at the marijuana legalization issue.

52% of the WPR/St. Norbert people polled say that small quantities of marijuana should not be sold legally as is the case in Colorado:


This may seem odd given that across the country, the tide is turning toward acceptance of legalization – as evidenced by the Gallup poll on this issue.

last three years marijuana use GALLUP
Source for Gallup info.

However, the Wisconsin Marquette poll from March 2014 has the same numbers that WPR/St. Norberts does:

marijuana marquette


We can do another cross-check on “the right direction” question.

57% say the state is going in the right direction.

right direction

That seems out of league to me.
However when checked against the Marquette poll of March 2014, it’s in the ballpark, given that the WPR/St. Norbert poll has a +/- 5% margin of error:

marquette headed in the right direction

Peculiar to see, and suggesting that respondents are conservative, is that Income Inequality is low on the list of national concerns for the WPR/St. Norbert people.

income inequality


I understand why these people would rank #1, #2, and #3 as they have.
However, I would place “Environment” higher on my list and I think my Dem-leaning and lefty friends would do the same given a recent informal poll I did a few weeks ago on facebook.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Surprisingly 31% of the people in this poll still are either “not sure” or “have not heard of” U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, the climate change denier who beat Feingold (*blogger pauses to shake fist at sky*).

ron johnson spring saint norbert

In March, 40% of the Marquette people polled said they had not heard of Ron Johnson. Note that 4% said “don’t know”. Seeing even less ignorance of Johnson in this WPR/St. Norbert poll as compared to the Marquette poll AGAIN suggests a conservative lean in the respondents.

marquette march 2014 ron johnson

Despite such a dearth in political awareness, a full 79% of the WPR/St. Norberts individuals polled said they will “definitely vote”.

how likely vote

Then there’s this:
guv approval rating

A healthy majority of the people in this poll are whistling a happy tune for Walker.

Ignorance is bliss but an electorate dominated by the ignorant is tragic.

In conclusion, I’ll note again that this is a small sample and it’s early and it’s stacked in Walker’s favor.

Still, it’s interesting.

I assume that Team Burke is wondering right about now if playing their cards so closely to the chest was a good idea. They’ve been gunning to win center and center-right Wisconsinites.

Go ahead and peruse these results for yourself and see what this small sample said about
*legal protections for same-sex couples in a hospital
*the 2006 marriage amendment against same-sex marriage
*legalizing marijuana
*raising the minimum wage
*voting laws
*climate change
*trust in the gov’t
*feeling like you are “better off” now compared to 1 year ago
*and feeling “financially better off” now compared to 1 year in the future


WPR has a big text ‘n’ graphics sampling from the survey HERE.

Here’s the St. Norbert web site which includes results from previous years.

St. Norbert’s Assistant Professor of Political Science Wendy Scattergood was interviewed by Veronica Rueckert on WPR as was Tim Dale, Assistant Professor of Political Science with UW La Crosse. Archived recording is HERE.

* Two things: 1) The WPR/St. Norbert’s poll is accurate enough to mean something, 2) It’s just a snapshot in time

Back in November of 2011 when Walker said the St. Norbert College poll “has been repeatedly wrong”, Politifact reviewed Norbert’s poll results against the 2010 Barrett-Walker election outcome. The WPR/ St. Norbert poll performed acceptably in Politifact’s estimation and Walker’s statement was rated “FALSE”.

“At least in 2010, St. Norbert was right on both winners while over estimating the size of Walker’s win and under estimating the size of Johnson’s win by 3.3 and 2.9 points respectively. Those errors are both within the theoretical margin of error for the sample size they used.” – Charles Franklin

Note that at the time it was November 2011 and Walker had just dissed the WPR/St. Norbert poll in an effort to discredit results which showed that 58 percent of respondents believed Walker should be recalled –  an increase from 47 percent in the April 2011 poll on the same question.

We saw how that turned out.

** More On the Washed Out Burke Messaging:
It’s a Two-For-One action since it allows the Democratic Party to, as usual, keep this battleground state a blank slate for the messaging of the next presidential candidate
[Is this a real shocker Lakoff-admirers: That the Dems actually DO know what they are doing with messaging?!].

Keeping the Wisconsin populace ignorant wouldn’t be my priority, but then again, I live here. I’m not a consultant sizing up a state from a distant D.C. office. My view is going to be more “granular”, as they say. The worthy political battlefields I see – and the worthy possibilities – are going to be more diverse, more approachable, and definitely more interesting.


5 thoughts on “A walk through the WPR/St. Norbert Poll showing Walker’s 55% to Burke’s 40%

  1. Geoff: Could you clarify what you’re trying to say here?
    53% have ‘not heard’ enough about Burke to judge her in March’s Marquette poll question number 9. And the Marquette poll also has that 6% ‘don’t know’. The April St. Norb. poll has 14% as ‘have not heard’ and 13% that are “not sure”.
    It’s a huge difference.
    I’m just not sure what you’re inferring.

  2. Sickening. Until the Dems find a way to successfully counter Walker’s claims of fiscal responsibility (look at that surplus!), the outlook is dire.

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