Wisconsin Poll: Trump’s Economy Presents Opportunity for Democrats

September 24, 2019


Democrats currently hold a narrow advantage over Donald Trump in Wisconsin, a state that is essential to victory in November 2020. The race for president in Wisconsin will be tight, but new polling from Priorities USA shows that Democrats have a clear path to victory. By reminding Wisconsinites that they aren’t benefiting from Trump’s economy, whether because of rising health care costs, stagnant wages, or the inability to keep up with everyday costs, Democrats can win back Wisconsin.

While voters say that Trump’s tweets, racist remarks, and volatile personality are leading them to feel unfavorably towards him, they aren’t hearing about the economic issues that are hurting people every single day. Democrats must focus on getting out the message about Trump’s failure to create opportunity for middle-class Americans.

Wisconsin voters’ views on the economy are mixed⁠. While some say they’re moderately satisfied with the economic conditions in our country, they also note that Trump’s economic policies are working for those who are already wealthy, leaving average working families, including their own, behind.

Democrats must spend time, energy, and money to highlight these critical pocketbook issues because Wisconsinites are simply not hearing about them. Trump’s agenda is leaving middle-class Americans and working Wisconsinites behind. If Democrats don’t get this message across, we’re at risk of losing Wisconsin once again.

State of the race in Wisconsin

Donald Trump won Wisconsin by a margin of just 0.77% in 2016, becoming the first Republican candidate to win the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Today, Donald Trump trails by 12 points against a generic Democratic candidate: 50% for the Democrat, 38% for the president, with 11% undecided. While a generic head-to-head tends to overperform, this deficit reflects voters’ overall opinion of the president, who receives 42% job approval, with 58% disapproving.

In Wisconsin, Trump is particularly unpopular among women, 61% of whom feel unfavorably to him, including 52% of white women without a college degree. Young voters (69% unfavorable) and voters in the Milwaukee area (59%) also view Trump unfavorably. While Trump fares better among Republicans (79% favorability), his campaign should be concerned that his favorability is underwater among non-college white men (45% favorable/51% unfavorable).

We see similar trends when it comes to how voters think about Trump’s job performance. Women (61%), younger voters (69%), and voters in the Milwaukee area (59%) disapprove of his job performance. Trump is barely net positive with non-college white men, among whom 52% approve and 48% disapprove.

A majority (51%) of voters say that what they have seen and heard lately about Trump made them feel less favorable toward him. The issues most likely to be the subject of these negative feelings in Wisconsin are Trump’s inflammatory tweets, racist remarks, attitude and action towards immigrants, and his continual lying and bad personality.

Fortunately, when asked to rate how motivated they were for the 2020 election on a scale of one to ten with ten being the most motivated, voters averaged an 8.0, highlighting that voters will be paying attention and are eager to cast their ballot.

Key Issues in Wisconsin 

Health care dominated the 2018 midterms and the issue is set to be at the top of voters’ minds once again in 2020. In Wisconsin, 50% of voters cite health care as their top political issue, followed by wages keeping up with the cost of living (31%) and corruption in government (31%). While health care was most frequently selected as a top political issue among all Wisconsin voters, it was particularly salient with voters 65 and older (55% chose it as a top issue), non-college white voters (55% among men and 53% among women), and voters in Milwaukee (53%).

Health care also remains one of Democrats’ biggest advantages against Trump. By a 25-point margin (54 percent to 29 percent) voters think Trump’s handling of health care is more of a reason to elect someone else. In addition to health care, voters express doubts about the president’s handling of climate change, an issue that hits close to home for many Wisconsinites who endured a series of destructive storms last summer. And while voters were more split on whether Trump’s handling of jobs was a reason to reelect him (40% said reelect vs. 42% who said elect someone else), not a single issue afforded Trump the advantage.

On a host of issues, Wisconsin voters see an economy that is becoming increasingly more difficult for people like them, and is instead catering to the powerful and wealthy.

Economic Insights

While Trump likes to brag about low unemployment numbers and sinking poverty rates, in Wisconsin, voters aren’t personally feeling the effects of a so-called strong economy.
Fewer than half of voters say they are “very” or “fairly” satisfied with economic conditions in the country. More than half of voters in Wisconsin report that their personal income is falling behind the cost of living. Perhaps most strikingly, white non-college voters are more likely to say that their income is falling behind the cost of living (55% for men and 56% for women). 

When making the connection directly to Trump, the picture is clear. Fifty-three percent of Wisconsin voters feel they have not benefited at all from Donald Trump’s economic policies. Only 10 percent of voters say they have benefited a lot.

Women hold much more negative views about the direction of the country under Trump. While 48% of men in Wisconsin say that things in the country have gotten worse over the last few years, 61% of Wisconsin women say the same. That sentiment is also shared by 53% of white women without a college degree and 56% of voters in the Milwaukee area. Women (45%) were also more likely to report being unsatisfied with the economic conditions in the country, compared with men (38%).


While Trump’s Twitter habits and racist and bigoted remarks are contributing to his weak standing with voters, this poll makes clear that they need to hear more about day-to-day pocketbook issues. From rising health care costs to losing faith in the ability to get ahead under Trump’s economic policies, Democrats should focus on the issues that affect hard working families across the state — the issues that voters care most about.

As previously mentioned, voters’ relationship with the economy is complicated, but this gives Democrats the opportunity to highlight the issues that voters are clearly grappling with: the rising cost of living, health care expenses becoming harder to manage, and their inability to get ahead financially.

What’s also clear here is that health care costs are a significant source of economic anxiety for Wisconsinites. As the number one issue that voters in Wisconsin care about, true among all battleground states, tying this struggle and anxiety to Trump’s attacks on our health care system will be an effective way to connect the dots for voters.

Lastly, Trump should be concerned with his sinking popularity with crucial voting blocks in Wisconsin, namely white non-college voters and women. We believe this will undoubtedly force Trump into a corner in which he can only focus on base consolidation rather than persuasion.

About This Poll

Garin-Hart-Yang and Global Strategy Group conducted this poll online August 13-25, 2019, with a total sample of 500 voters in Wisconsin. The distribution of voters across demographic, geographic, and political factors reflect the expected composition of the 2020 electorate for Wisconsin.