Republican Ron Johnson’s re-election bid in peril as he suffers ‘a striking decline’ in popularity: report
Gage Skidmore.

The Republican incumbent in one of the most important U.S. Senate races in America has suffered a steep and sustained drop in popularity as the GOP attempts to wrestle control of the body from Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.

"Republican Sen. Ron Johnson faces a Wisconsin electorate that is more negative toward him — and more polarized over him — than ever. He has lost significant ground in the past few years with key voting groups such as women, moderates, independents and suburbanites, including voters in the once lopsided GOP stronghold of the 'WOW counties' outside Milwaukee," Craig Gilbert wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, referring to the initials of the counties Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington.

Gilbert spent 35 years reporting on politics for the newspaper and is now a fellow with Marquette University Law School's Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.

"Over the past year, Johnson has suffered through his longest and deepest period of unpopularity since Marquette began polling about him in early 2013 — a stretch of 61 statewide polls. Combining the four surveys that Marquette has done over the past nine months, 35% of registered voters view Johnson favorably and 44% view him unfavorably — a net rating of minus 9," Gilbert wrote. "Compared with his peak in popularity in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 — when his average favorability rating was plus 10 — the downturn is notable."

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Gilbert interviewed pollster Charles Franklin, a professor of law and public policy at Marquette Law School, and director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

“There’s such a striking decline, and it’s a decline that has been sustained through 2020, 2021 and now into 2022. So, it’s not a short-term fluctuation, but a strong trend,” Franklin explained. “And we see that downward movement across most of the groups we looked at. In that sense, I think we can be quite confident the decline is real. But what we can’t be as confident about is whether it’s reversible.”

In April of 2021, Trump gave his "complete and total endorsement" to Johnson before the senator had even announced he would seek re-election.

"He has no idea how popular he is. Run, Ron, Run!" Trump successfully urged.

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But Johnson's problems aren't with Trump's MAGA base, Gilbert explained.

"Johnson’s slippage has been minimal among pro-Trump voters and voters who describe themselves as 'very conservative.' It has been very steep among Democrats and liberals. But it has also been pronounced among some more politically mixed groups that aren’t as lopsidedly red or blue," he explained.

He cited four key shifts between Johnson's polling in 2019 and the latest numbers.

"Plus 6 to minus 16 among women. Plus 18 to minus 20 among voters 70 and older (the sharpest decline among any group we looked at)," he wrote. "Plus 5 to minus 28 among moderates (the second sharpest decline). Plus 18 to minus 5 among voters in denser, metropolitan suburbs."

Read the full analysis.