What factors could impact race for governor?

Mary Burke (D), left, and Scott Walker (R)
Mary Burke (D), left, and Scott Walker (R)

GREEN BAY - A recent poll of likely voters found Governor Scott Walker has an advantage over Mary Burke. What factors could affect that lead in the coming months?

St. Norbert College political science professor Wendy Scattergood says voters will keep their focus on jobs and the economy.

"If people's perception of the economy is that it's improving and that they're very positive about it, that helps the incumbent, whether the incumbent is a Republican or a Democrat," said Scattergood.

The economy's performance could have a big impact on independent voters.

"They are the ones that can really change their mind," said Scattergood.

According to a St. Norbert College poll of 401 Wisconsin residents, 56 percent of likely voters back Governor Walker while 40 percent support Mary Burke.

Four percent are not sure who they'd vote for. The poll was conducted from March 24 to April 3 and has a five percent margin of error.

Those numbers could be different in six and a half months. While 77 percent of likely voters say they are totally or somewhat committed to their candidate, 23 percent say they could change their mind.

Local Democrats believe support for Burke will rise as her visibility increases.

"You're going to see Mary Burke a lot in the months to come. She has been around the state in these many months prepping for this," said Deb Stover of the Brown County Democratic Party.

Scattergood says Burke could gain more votes as she increases her name recognition and favorability among voters.

“She not only has to be favorable herself, get those favorability ratings up, she also has to make them enthusiastic about choosing her so that they actually want to stand in line to vote," she said.

Local Republicans believe more independent voters will support Governor Walker after they look at what he's done during his first term.

"Business-wise where we are, job-creation where we're going, you look at all these things, and you look at the state as a while, we are in a very good position," said Mark Becker of the Brown County Republican Party.

Another factor Scattergood says to watch in the coming months: which candidate does more to energize voters to get out and cast ballots.

In the St. Norbert poll, 94 percent of respondents said they will probably vote in November's election. Around 50 percent of Wisconsin voters cast ballots in November 2010 when Walker was first elected.