Partisanship is one reason for the differences between Wisconsin and the race in Pennsylvania, where the overall contest was about even in last week's ABC News poll, 49 percent to 48 percent (Nader is not on the ballot). In Pennsylvania, 41 percent of likely voters identified themselves as Democrats, 36 percent as Republicans. In this poll in Wisconsin, by contrast, 35 percent of likely voters are Republicans, 29 percent Democrats.
Ultimate loyalties on Election Day remain to be seen; in the 2000 exit poll more Wisconsin voters were Democrats than Republicans, by a five-point margin, and in 1996 it was about even, +1 Democrat. Wisconsin has voted Democratic in the last four presidential elections; Al Gore won the state by 5,708 votes in 2000.
Party loyalty isn't the only reason Bush leads in Wisconsin, however. Among likely voters, independents — the quintessential swing-voter group — prefer him by 52 percent to 40 percent. (They make up 29 percent of likely voters in this poll.)
There's a gender gap among registered voters in Wisconsin — Bush has a 17-point lead among men, while Kerry has a slight four-point edge among women. But most women as well as most men (albeit by smaller margins), trust Bush over Kerry to handle terrorism, and say Bush is a stronger leader and has taken clearer stands on the issues.
There are also large regional differences, with Bush holding substantial leads in the northeastern part of the state and in the areas surrounding Milwaukee, while Kerry leads in the south and, by a smaller margin, in Milwaukee. The candidates are tied in the state's northwest.
Bush leads among white Catholics, another quintessential swing-voter group, who account for about a third of Wisconsin's registered voters. Fifty-four percent back him, 43 percent Kerry. By contrast, Gore barely edged out Bush among white Catholics in 2000, 49 percent to 48 percent.
Bush is supported by about two-thirds of Wisconsin's veterans, and comes close to Kerry among union households, a group he lost by 16 points to Gore in 2000. Union household turnout has been higher in recent presidential elections in Wisconsin than is reflected in this poll; boosting union turnout would help Kerry here — but not vastly, since he holds just a four-point lead in this group.
Likely voters in this poll account for 66 percent of Wisconsin's adult population, identical to the state's voter turnout in 2000. There are two quirks of election law in Wisconsin: Small-town residents are not required to register to vote, and residents can walk in and register on Election Day. Both were accounted for in this survey.
This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 16-19 among a random sample of 1,050 adults in Wisconsin, including 938 registered voters. The results have a three-point error margin for registered voters, 3.5 points for likely voters. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.