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Tuesday - March 6, 2018 3:02 am

Poll shows skepticism over Foxconn cost, wide open primaries

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin voters, especially those outside of the Milwaukee area, are skeptical the Foxconn Technology Group project is worth the $3 billion in state incentives promised to the Taiwanese company if it meets employment and investment targets, a poll released Monday shows.

That could be trouble for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has touted the potentially $10 billion project 30 miles south of Milwaukee — which could actually cost the state closer to $4.5 billion — as transformational for the state as he runs for re-election this year. Even so, the Marquette University Law School poll found Walker’s approval rating to be holding steady from nine months ago, just before the Foxconn deal was announced.

The poll also found that the nine top-tier Democrats running against Walker haven’t made much of an impression on voters five months before the Aug. 14 primary. A majority of respondents said they didn’t have enough information yet about each of the nine to form an opinion, or they had no opinion.

State Superintendent Tony Evers was the best known, but still 66 percent hadn’t heard enough to have an opinion. Former state Rep. Kelda Roys was the most unknown, with 92 percent saying they didn’t have an opinion.

The same was true for the two Republicans running in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin. More than 80 percent didn’t know enough to have an opinion of Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson or state Sen. Leah Vukmir. Baldwin’s approval rating was 37 percent, steady from nine months ago, while her disapproval was 39 percent.

Baldwin’s numbers didn’t move much even though $3.1 million has been spent against her in television ads by conservative groups so far. And Nicholson didn’t seem to benefit much from more than $3.1 million that’s been spent on ads meant to increase his name ID across the state.

In the governor’s race, Walker’s approval rating was 47 percent, the same as his disapproval. His approval rating is the same now as it was in March 2014, when he was heading into his first re-election.

With the election so far away, and a wide majority of voters saying they don’t know enough about the candidates running against Walker and Baldwin, “it’s premature to be concerned” about anything the numbers show, said pollster Charles Franklin.

However, Franklin emphasized the Foxconn findings, saying they show a continued divide between people in more rural parts of the state and those in the urban center around Milwaukee most likely to benefit from the project.

The poll found that statewide 49 percent of respondents think the $3 billion in state incentives is more than the project is worth, while 38 percent say Foxconn will be worth the cost.

While a majority of voters statewide said they thought the plant would substantially improve the economy of the greater Milwaukee area, only 25 percent statewide said they thought businesses where they live would directly benefit from the plant.

Walker, who has described Foxconn as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, defended it on Twitter.

“Bringing 13,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs to WI is the right thing to do -- regardless of politics,” he said hours after the poll was released.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters between Feb. 25 and Thursday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

On other topics, the poll found:

— support for tighter gun control laws remained high after the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida that left 17 dead. Similar to past polls, 81 percent support background checks on private gun sales, including at gun shows, and 56 percent support a ban on assault-style weapons. However, 43 percent said they thought new gun control laws would have no effect on reducing mass shootings. Twelve percent said new laws would reduce mass shootings a great deal, while 22 percent said the reduction would be moderate.

— President Donald Trump’s approval rating was 43 percent with 50 percent disapproving. That’s little changed from June when it was 41-51. There’s a sharp partisan divide, with 89 percent of Republicans approving of Trump’s performance and 89 percent of Democrats disapproving.

— more than 75 percent of respondents were unable to rate Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Rebecca Dallet, a Milwaukee County judge, and Michael Screnock, a Sauk County judge.

— 71 percent support a path for citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally and 86 percent said children of immigrants here illegally should be able to stay and apply for citizenship.

Associated Press

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