Sen. Ron Johnson is leading Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes in a new poll of the Wisconsin Senate race released Wednesday.
The poll from Marquette Law School suggests Johnson, a two-term incumbent, is leading Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor, among likely voters by 6 percentage points — 52% to 46%. One percent of respondents said they would vote for neither candidate and 1% said they were undecided.
The school’s previous poll, from September, showed a much tighter race, with Johnson leading Barnes 49% to 48%.
Part of the shift can be attributed to likely independent voters. The new poll shows 51% of independents likely to cast a vote support Johnson, compared with 45% backing Barnes. In the September survey, Johnson’s lead among that group was 48% to 46%.
Among all registered voters surveyed, it's a much closer race. The new poll shows the two candidates are tied at 47%, with 4% saying they wouldn't vote for either candidate and 2% saying they didn’t know yet, suggesting turnout will be key.
In the state’s race for governor, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers leads GOP challenger Tim Michels among likely voters 47% to 46%. Independent candidate Joan Beglinger — who ended her campaign in September but will still be on the ballot — garnered 4% in the poll, while 1% of respondents said they were undecided.
In Marquette's September poll, Evers led Michels among likely voters 47% to 44%.
The latest poll shows that among registered voters, Evers is leading Michels 46% to 41%, with Beglinger at 7%.
Michels may have made gains among likely independent voters from September's poll, with 44% now saying they supported him and 43% saying they supported Evers. In September, Evers led among independents 45% to 39%.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates both the Senate and gubernatorial races as toss-ups.
In the new poll, registered Wisconsin voters said the issue they were most concerned about was inflation, followed by public schools, gun violence, abortion policy and crime.
Johnson and Barnes spent much of their first televised debate, held on Friday, discussing abortion and crime. Republicans have hammered Barnes and other Democratic candidates on crime in recent weeks, while Democrats see abortion rights as an issue that will energize their base in November. The two candidates are scheduled to hold their second and final televised debate on Thursday.
Evers and Michels will face off on Friday for their only televised debate.
Marquette polled 801 registered voters via phone interviews from Oct. 3-9 (652 of those are considered likely voters), with more than half of the interviews coming before last Friday's debate. The margins of error for registered voters and likely voters are +/- 4.3% and +/-4.8% respectively.