Scott Walker and the most polarized state in the country
By Chris Cillizza,
Exit polling from Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday night makes one thing very clear: The Badger State has the most polarized electorate in the country. The source of that polarization? Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
In the last few weeks, we’ve had conversations with Republican and Democratic political operatives who expressed amazement at just how much the protracted struggle over Walker’s collective bargaining law, which he signed into law in the spring of 2011, has turned every voter in the state into a strong partisan.
But seeing the numbers coming out of Wisconsin on Tuesday night really opened our eyes. They are simply amazing, the kind of numbers you don’t see much — if ever — for any politician.
“Yes, Republicans love Walker, Democrats hate him and the slice of voters with no opinion is certainly smaller than in any other state,” acknowledged one Republican strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the state.
Let’s go through them.
Among “very” conservative voters, Walker’s approval rating is 98 percent with 92 percent of those voters strongly approving of him. Among “somewhat” conservative voters, Walker’s approval is at 92 percent with 83 percent feeling that way strongly.
Here are those numbers in chart form — for you visual learners:
The data among tea party supporters is equally striking. Ninety seven percent of “strong” tea party supporters in Wisconsin said they approve of Walker with 94 percent(!) saying they do so strongly. Those who are somewhat supportive of the tea party are close to unified in their support for Walker; 93 percent approve of him with 82 percent doing so strongly.
Again, here’s that data in a chart:
The polarization goes both ways. There was a not-insignificant number of Democratic cross-over voters in the Republican primary on Tuesday — 11 percent of the overall electorate, according to exit polling — which gives us a decent sense of how the opposition party views Walker.
The answer? Not very highly. Seven in ten self-identified Democrats disapprove of Walker.
“I think the electorate is polarized, we have seen that increasingly to this point,” said Colm O’Martun, executive director at the Democratic Governors Association. “But the electorate is more in favor of recall than it was and Walker hasn’t been able to convince the electorate that he should keep his job.”
(A Marquette Law School poll released last month showed Walker in a statistical dead heat against both of his potential Democratic opponents.)
Republicans argue that while the electorate is incredibly polarized, Walker’s approval ratings are starting to trend upward and that the issues that will predominate in the recall — taxes and spending — work in the incumbent’s favor among independents.
What the Wisconsin exit poll proves is that there is NO grey area when it comes to Walker. His move to strip public-sector unions of their collective bargaining rights drew a line in the political sand in the state — and almost no one straddles that line. There are virtually no persuadable voters.
That means the June 5 recall election is likely to come down to a war between the bases. In that, it could well look like the 2004 presidential election, which, if memory serves, was a pretty damn close race.
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