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In toss-up governor’s race, crumbling roads unpopular, but so are taxes

Less than a month before election day, Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Tony Evers, are back in a statistical dead heat, according to a new Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile — in what has become a central topic of debate in the governor’s race — the poll found that voters still think Wisconsin’s roads are in bad shape. At the same time, less than half of the respondents said they are willing to pay more for infrastructure, something Evers has suggested should at least be considered.

The Marquette poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters, using their responses to produce results with a 3.6 percent margin of error. The pollsters also spoke to 799 so-called likely voters, producing results with a slightly higher margin of error — 3.9 percent.

The numbers released Wednesday suggested the governor’s race is tightening. Walker won support from 47 percent of the respondents in this latest poll; Evers had support from 46 percent. For Walker, the numbers were an improvement from a Marquette poll released a month before, in which Evers had support from 49 percent of the respondents and Walker from 44 percent.

The latest poll also surveyed 3 percent more Republican voters than Democratic. But the larger pool of GOP voters didn’t explain everything.

Even as Walker’s numbers went up in the latest poll, the Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin managed to win support from 53 percent of the respondents. That figure was the same from the month before. In other words, the larger pool of Republican respondents made no perceptible difference for Baldwin or her Republican opponent, state Senator Leah Vukmir.

“It looks like the governor’s race moved, but the senate race did not move, and that’s despite the change in the sample,” said Charles Franklin, the poll’s director.

The latest Marquette poll meanwhile found that Wisconsin voters remain unhappy with the condition of the state’s roads. The idea that Wisconsin roadways are dilapidated and in need of repair has become a common refrain on the campaign trail. Evers has attacked Walker over his transportation policies, although he has yet to release a concrete plan of his own. Walker, meanwhile, has sought to stoke fear that Evers could raise the gas tax by as much as a dollar.

The poll found that 64 percent of voters think Wisconsin roads are in fair or poor condition, and that only 36 percent think they are in good or excellent condition. Those results are largely unchanged from the Marquette Poll’s findings in September.

The poll released on Wednesday did not measure how voters in different parts of the state view the quality of Wisconsin’s roads. In the survey from September, voters in the southern part of the state were more likely to rank roads poorly than their northern neighbors.

Higher taxes?

But while there are plenty of voters who are unhappy with Wisconsin roads, there are not nearly as many who would support raising taxes to pay for repairs and other projects.

The poll found that 61 percent of the respondents favor keeping the state’s gas tax and vehicle-registration fees where they are now. Only 32 percent said they’d support increases to pay for more infrastructure projects. Even among voters who think the state’s roads are in bad shape, less than half — 48 percent — said they would support higher taxes or fees.

Voters are open to higher taxes on schools, though.

The poll found 57 percent of the respondents would support raising property taxes to spend more on public schools, whereas only 37 percent said they’d prefer to lower taxes. The number of voters who support more public school spending has risen since pollsters first asked questions of this sort in 2013. Locally, voters have approved school referendums at increasing rates around Wisconsin, and could pass a record $2 billion worth of school spending in 2018, a recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report found.

Likewise in the latest poll, 51 percent of the respondents said they’d rather pay higher taxes and have the government provide more services and only 42 percent said they want lower taxes and fewer services. When the poll first asked this question in a poll whose results were released in January 2012, 50 percent of the respondents said they wanted lower taxes and fewer government services, and 41 percent wanted more services and higher taxes.

Foxconn support

Opinions about Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion factory in Mount Pleasant remained largely unchanged.

The poll found 48 percent of the registered voters who responded thought the state is paying more than what Foxconn is worth, whereas 38 percent said the $4.5 billion worth of incentives Wisconsin is offering the company will essentially result in a break-even deal. Another 13 percent said they were unsure.

In September, 48 percent of the registered voters who responded said they thought the Foxconn project wasn’t worth what the state was offering, and 39 percent said it was.

Most respondents, however, said Foxconn would be good for the Milwaukee area. The poll found 61 percent of the respondents thought Foxconn would improve the Milwaukee area’s economy; only 30 percent said it wouldn’t. In September, 58 percent had said Milwaukee would benefit and 31 percent had said it would not.

Voters were still skeptical of Foxconn’s benefit to businesses, however.

The poll found 35 percent of registered voters thought the technology giant would be a boon to local businesses, whereas a full 57 percent said nearby companies would not benefit.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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