More than 60% of Wisconsinites support ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, according to the latest Marquette Law School Poll — which was conducted before Tuesday night’s violent protests in Madison that included the toppling of two popular statues and the assault of a state senator.
The poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden widening his lead over President Donald Trump in a key swing state and a declining concern among Wisconsinites about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The poll, released Wednesday, found 61% of respondents said they approve of the current protests, while 36% disapprove.
“To see more than 60% who approve of the current protest says that the country as a whole is looking at the protest in a very different way than they looked at the 1968 protests and riots,” poll director Charles Franklin said.
Among Black respondents, 74% approve of the protests, while 81% of Hispanic respondents approve and 59% of white respondents approve.
The latest poll was conducted June 14-18, before protesters tore down statues of “Forward” and a Union Civil War colonel, assaulted Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, and set a small fire in a city building Downtown after the arrest of a Black activist earlier in the day.
The Marquette poll included 805 registered Wisconsin voters interviewed by cellphone or landline, with a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.
Though there is support for protests, 72% of respondents said they have a favorable view of the police, compared with 59% who said they have a positive view of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Among respondents, 86% said they feel safe around police, while 11% reported feeling anxious around law enforcement.
However, only 43% of Black respondents and 72% of Hispanic respondents said they feel safe around police. More than 90% of white respondents said they feel safe around police.
In addition, 68% of Black respondents and 71% of Hispanic respondents said police are too quick to use deadly force, compared with only 38% of white respondents.
“Whites experience of the police is just qualitatively different and they bring to that a much more positive view of police actions than do people of color,” Franklin said.
Only 8% of Black respondents said they felt the death of George Floyd — who died in police custody after a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for several minutes — was an isolated incident, while 86% said it was part of a more broad pattern. Among Hispanic respondents, 26% said the incident was isolated and 72% said it was part of a larger pattern.
White respondents were more split on the issue, with 47% saying Floyd’s death was an isolated incident, while 44% said it was part of a larger pattern.
In the latest poll, Biden opened an 8-point margin over Trump, with 49% of respondents supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee, compared with 41% for the Republican president.
In May, 46% supported Biden, while 43% supported Trump. In March, 48% supported Biden and 45% supported Trump. Both poll results are within the margin of error. In February, Trump and Biden were deadlocked with 46% each.
Trump’s overall job approval rating fell two points from May to 45% approving and 51% disapproving of the president’s performance. Trump’s job approval has not dropped below 41% since taking office, Franklin said.
Trump’s job approval dipped slightly among Republicans, from 93% approval among GOP respondents in May to 87% in June.
“You have to appreciate how stable the president’s job approval has been since he took office,” Franklin said. “While his overall job approval has been so stable for a long time, we find a real range on specific issues.”
Only 30% of respondents approve of Trump’s handling of ongoing protests following Floyd’s death, while 58% disapprove.
As for Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, his 44% approval rating remains unchanged from May. However, his handling of the economy dipped to 50% approval, compared with 54% approval in May.
Overall concern regarding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fall in Wisconsin, according to the poll.
The latest poll found that 19% of respondents were very concerned about catching the respiratory disease, compared with about 30% in March. Respondents who said they were not at all worried about the coronavirus increased from less than 10% in March to about 25% in June.
Respondents varied widely on what activities they feel comfortable with following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling to end the stay-at-home order last month, with 54% saying they are comfortable having students return to school this fall, while 38% said they were uncomfortable with reopening schools.
In addition, 83% of respondents said they would feel comfortable visiting a friend or family member, 65% said they feel comfortable shopping at a mall or large retail store, 49% of respondents would be comfortable eating at a restaurant and only 33% of respondents said they would feel comfortable attending a sports event, play or concert.
Reported job loss in the June poll marked a drop from last month, with 13% of respondents reporting they had lost a job due to COVID-19. In May, 15% reported losing a job, while 9% reported a lost job in March.
Views on the economy continue to drop in Wisconsin, with 50% of June respondents reporting that the economy had gotten worse over the past 12 months, compared with 46% in May and just 15% in February.
The economic outlook among respondents has improved, with 50% saying the economy will get better over the next 12 months, compared with 45% in May and 36% in February.
Last week, the Department of Workforce Development reported the state unemployment rate had dropped from 13.6% in April to 12.0% in May. Jobs in retail, leisure and hospitality saw some of the biggest gains last month, although no industry has recovered to anywhere near the 2.8% unemployment rate of April and May last year.
The unemployment rate in Dane County dropped from 10.5% in April to 9.3% last month, according to DWD.
Photos: See damage from Tuesday protests near the state Capitol
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