Wisconsin Voters Worried About the Income Gap and Manufacturing Job Losses, New Poll Finds

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Fifty-six percent of poll respondents said Hillary Clinton would help create manufacturing jobs. | Photo by Marc Nozell

Residents think Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump will do the most to create jobs, enforce fair trade.

Spoiler alert: Manufacturing is likely going to play a big role in Wisconsin's April 5 primary.

A new statewide poll in the Badger State finds that respondents are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poorthe loss of manufacturing jobs, and the shrinking middle class. Wisconsin voters also are concerned about our relationship with China, with one participant noting that Chinese officials "under evaluate what their currency is worth, what our debts are worth. It's not doing us any favors."

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is seen as the candidate who would do some work to help create American manufacturing jobs (by 56 percent of participants) and enforce fair trade (51 percent). Clinton's statements on trade and jobs were viewed as the most net-favorable.

But Republican frontrunner Donald Trump also scored high as a jobs candidate, with 29 percent of participants saying he'd do the most to create American manufacturing jobs and 30 percent saying he'd enforce fair trade. Trump is also seen as the candidate who has discussed the issues in "memorable and understandable" ways.

A potential swing state, Wisconsin also is a major state for manufacturing. One in five Wisconsin residents are dependent on manufacturing, according to the poll. Nearly half a million residents are employed in the sector, but the state has lost 130,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001.

"These results make sense. While one candidate may be saying it the loudest, the top candidates from both parties are talking about trade and jobs." Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Not surprisingly, Wisconsinites have a positive view of manufacturing, with 51 percent of voters seeing it as the most or second most important industry to the overall strength of the American economy. Eighty-seven percent of voters there have a favorable view of American manufacturing companies and 88 percent have a favorable view of manufacturing workers.

Nearly half of poll respondents cited jobs being shipped overseas as the biggest reason for manufacturing job loss, including 50 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans. 

Wisconsin residents favor an array of pro-manufacturing public policies, including expanding apprenticeships buying American whenever taxpayer money is spent, and investing in rebuilding our infrastructure. Participants also favor getting tough with China, including by addressing currency manipulation.

The Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies conducted the poll in March 2016 for the Alliance for American Manufacturing. You can check out the full poll results here.