A new poll in Wisconsin shows Joe Biden with a big lead over Bernie Sanders in next week’s Democratic presidential primary, which is moving ahead even though a majority of voters want the state to postpone amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The primary is happening as the state's governor is ordering residents to stay home to slow the spread of the virus. But among those who said they were likely to vote in the primary, the poll, from Marquette Law School, shows Biden leading Sanders 62 percent to 34 percent. Only 4 percent of voters said they don’t know for whom they would vote or declined to answer.
Sanders, who has been swamped by Biden in the delegate count, likely needs a strong performance in Wisconsin to keep his already-slim hopes of mounting a comeback alive. Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2016. Before the coronavirus prompted a pause of the presidential campaign last month, Biden won nearly every state of consequence that voted in March, building and then stretching his delegate lead.
The Democratic race in Wisconsin breaks down along familiar lines. Sanders continues to dominate among the youngest voters: He leads Biden, 73 percent to 27 percent, among voters under age 30. But Biden leads among other age groups, holding a 3-point lead among voters aged 30-44 and commanding 43- and 72-point advantages among voters age 45-59 and 60 and older, respectively.
Despite the statewide lockdown ordered by Gov. Tony Evers to combat Covid-19, officials are going ahead with next week’s primary — which they say would be impossible to postpone because other state and local general elections are being held at the same time, and those can’t be delayed.
Sanders on Wednesday called for the election to be delayed, and voters in the Marquette poll mostly agreed. A bare majority, 51 percent, say Wisconsin should move the April 7 election, including 55 percent of self-identified Democratic voters. Forty-four percent, and 40 percent of Democrats, said the election should be held as scheduled.
Evers has earned high marks for his handling of the virus. More than three-in-four voters, 76 percent, say they approve of the job he is doing handling the outbreak, and his overall approval rating is at 65 percent, up from 51 percent in February.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, receives mixed grades in a state central to his reelection prospects. A slim majority, 51 percent, approve of the way Trump is handling the virus, compared to 46 percent who disapprove. But his overall approval rating is unchanged from February, at 48 percent approval versus 49 percent disapproval.
Trump would be locked in a tight, margin-of-error race with either Democratic candidate, the poll shows. Biden leads Trump by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent, while Trump edges Sanders by 2 points, 47 percent to 45 percent.
Wisconsin is also home to July's scheduled Democratic convention in Milwaukee. But most voters surveyed in the poll say the convention should not go forward as an in-person event, in a jam-packed basketball arena in the city's downtown. Only 22 percent of all voters, and 16 percent of Democrats, say the convention should go on as planned, while 62 percent of voters and 69 percent of Democrats say it should not.
The Marquette Law School poll was conducted March 24-29, surveying 813 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The poll also surveyed 394 likely Democratic primary voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 5.9 percentage points.