A slew of negative headlines about Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Bradley, including her college writings that slammed gays, feminists and abortion rights, hasn’t damaged her campaign for a 10-year term, according to an opinion poll released Wednesday.
The numbers from Marquette Law School show Bradley has support from 41 percent of likely voters, a slim advantage over Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who’s at 36 percent.
The last survey, taken in February before the negative news came out about Bradley, showed she had 37 percent support to Kloppenburg’s 36 percent. Since then, Bradley’s campaign has fought back against the writings along with questions of whether she cheated on her husband and the news that she left the high court bench during oral arguments to give a speech to a business group.
The Marquette Law School Poll on the judicial race was conducted Thursday through Monday, sampling 957 likely voters who said by cellphone or landline that they’re certain to cast a ballot in the high court race. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
The survey doesn’t indicate why the campaign’s troubles haven’t hurt Bradley, but it could be a combination of heavy spending on advertising, conservative support and as poll director Charles Franklin said, getting “overshadowed by other contests.”
Wisconsin’s presidential primary contest, which is next week, has taken the attention away from the high court race, especially as candidates from both parties have crisscrossed the state to rally support.
Bradley’s campaign, meanwhile, has dealt with her troubles aggressively. She apologized repeatedly for the college writings, denied having had an affair and deflected the criticism over leaving the bench as overblown. Still, about 18 percent of respondents were undecided, and more than a third of likely voters say they don’t know enough about either candidate to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion.
In the race, the conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has spent about $1.2 million on months of TV ads supporting Bradley, according to the most recent analysis of Federal Communications Commission records by campaign watchdog group Justice at Stake. As of Thursday, Bradley’s campaign booked about $196,000 worth of TV time.
On the other side, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee had booked about $265,000 worth of pro-Kloppenburg ads, and her campaign had purchased about $223,000 worth of TV time.
Kloppenburg has repeatedly noted that Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Bradley to three judgeships in recent years, including her spot on the high court bench. But those efforts may not be working as intended.
Walker’s approval numbers have climbed steadily to 43 percent from a low of 37 percent last fall — about the time he ended his presidential bid. And among likely Republican presidential primary voters, his favorability stands at 80 percent. Bradley has almost 70 percent support from that same group.
Bradley has “a notable advantage” but “not a massive advantage,” Franklin said.
“There’s still a decent amount of uncertainty,” Franklin said, “about how these last — goodness, what are we down to? Six days? — are gonna shape up.”
The poll’s full sample, which covered a wide range of political topics, includes 1,405 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.