Here are a few numbers that help explain why Senate Democrat Russ Feingold has trailed in every public poll this fall. They show the political leanings of likely voters in a recent statewide survey by Marist:
In other words, self-identified conservatives in this random sample of likely voters outnumbered moderates by 14 points and liberals by 27 points.
What’s striking about these “likely voters” is not just that how conservative they are. It’s how much more conservative they are than the actual Wisconsin electorate of recent years (I’ll have a broader story on this subject in Sunday’s Journal Sentinel).
The 2008 electorate in Wisconsin looked like this, according to exit polls of voters:
The 2006 electorate looked like this:
The 2004 electorate looked like this:
In both presidential and mid-term elections, here and nationally, moderate voters have outnumbered conservative voters – typically by a lot. But the opposite is true of the people identified as likely voters by many pollsters this year.
The Marist poll is not unique. Another recent Wisconsin survey by an established polling firm (Opinion Research for CNN/Time), found an almost identical breakdown among likely voters: