President Obama at a fundraiser in New York. (Justin Lane / European Pressphoto…)
Wisconsin voters in Tuesday’s recall election seem ideologically fairly similar to those in 2010 – more heavily conservative than in the 2008 presidential election, but inclined to reelect President Obama nonetheless, according to early, partial exit poll results.
Voters on Tuesday said by 51% to 45% that they would vote for Obama if the presidential election were being held today. They also said they thought Obama would do better than Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, at handling the economy. On the other hand, as in the 2010 election, people who identified themselves as conservatives significantly outnumbered self-identified liberals.
The exit poll results are preliminary and could be significantly revised, but so far, they seem likely to bolster morale at Obama campaign headquarters. Wisconsin is a must-win state for Democrats in the November election.
The exit poll results also indicate that much of the spending in the recall campaign – more than $60 million disclosed to date – was probably wasted. About 90% of voters said their minds were made up before the campaign began. The one area of spending that may have been useful was money that both sides put into get-out-the-vote efforts, particularly identifying supporters. Those valuable lists will now come into play in the general election. Because Wisconsin does not register voters by party, identifying supporters is a particularly arduous task in the state.
The early exit poll results indicate that union members made up a larger share of the turnout than in the last several elections. That could be a problem for embattled Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican whose successful move to end most collective bargaining rights for teachers and most other public employees set off the furor that led to the recall effort.
On the other hand, the polls also show a significant number of voters skeptical about the use of recalls for policy disagreements, as opposed to serious misconduct in office. Pre-election polls had shown Walker benefiting from a number of voters who disagreed with his policies but felt that a recall was inappropriate.