Poll: Walker opens lead in WI governor’s race amid Burke plagiarism scandal


EXPANDING LEAD: Following reports that Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke plagiarized parts of her jobs plan and other policy proposals, Gov. Scott Walker has gained a 5 percent lead among likely voters in the latest Marquette University poll.

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The plagiarism scandal surrounding Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke apparently is affecting Wisconsin voters.

The latest Marquette University Law School poll, released Wednesday, shows incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker has opened up his lead against Burke by 5 percent among likely voters.

Of the 585 likely voters who participated in the Marquette poll between Sept. 25-28, 50 percent said they would vote for Walker; 45 percent said they would be voting for Burke. The poll’s margin of error is 4.1 percent, marking the first time since March either candidate has held a lead outside the margin of error among likely voters.

Information for Marquette’s previous poll, which had Walker ahead of Burke by 3 percent, was collected between Sept. 11-14, several days before Buzzfeed first reported Burke’s campaign had lifted word-for-word numerous passages in her jobs plan from other sources. Buzzfeed also found additional instances of plagiarism in other Burke policy proposals.

“I would say it is plausible that, yes, that has moved some votes and, in fact, maybe counts for that 2 percent,” Marquette political science professor John McAdams told Wisconsin Reporter on Wednesday, shortly after the poll was made public.

The latest poll found 18 percent of respondents are less likely to vote for Burke after hearing her camp copied certain ideas from other plans. Almost 75 percent said Burke’s actions haven’t changes their opinions.

Trying to deflect the plagiarism scandal, the Burke campaign, which did not return calls from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment, is instead focusing on the results of the 801 registered voters who participated in the poll.

Among that group, 46 percent said they support Walker, and 45 percent said they would vote for Burke. That poll’s margin of error is 3.5 percent.

Walker and Burke were tied at 46 percent in that same poll earlier this month.

“That this race remains too close to call shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” Burke for Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Zepecki said in a statement. “Over the last 2 weeks Governor Walker has stepped up the mudslinging and false, negative attacks in a desperate attempt to distract from his failed record.”

But Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy and director of the Marquette Law School poll, says he puts more stock into the likely voter results because they tend to paint a more accurate picture.

“That’s why likely voters really are likely, and the others are pretty unlikely and certainly not that enthused about it,” Franklin said. “So, we’ve been saying now for several polls that as you get closer and closer to the election, the likely voters become the better measure of the election-day electorate.”

McAdams told Wisconsin Reporter that Burke also is more likely to be harmed by copying passages in her policy proposals because candidates who are not as well-known are more vulnerable to negative publicity.

“If it is a relatively unknown candidate, the first or early information they get can have a disproportionately large effect,” McAdams said. “Now, that doesn’t mean it will be a huge effect, but I think it could easily account for 2 percent.”

In January, 70 percent of the poll’s participants either hadn’t heard enough about Burke or didn’t know if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her. That number has now dropped to 26 percent, which, McAdams says, could be attributed to the attention gained by the plagiarism accusations.

“So, clearly, between news coverage and between political ads … people have heard something about Mary Burke,” McAdams said.

Just more than an hour after the poll was released, Burke emailed supporters, asking to help raise $35,000 by midnight.

“They’re moving the needle among likely voters in their favor,” the email says of Walker and the state GOP. “This will come down to turnout, and we need to make sure we have the enthusiasm on the ground. We can’t let them move the needle anymore. We need to stand up against the millions they’re spending attacking us and make sure they know we’re ready to fight back.”