Battleground Wisconsin: In a time where voters are feeling burnt out, what’s driving them to the polls?

MADISON, Wis. — Polls have been fairly consistent about one thing leading up to the November elections: none of the candidates for the topline races are especially popular.

That leaves candidates scrambling for the votes of a disgruntled and worn-out electorate. We spoke with a wide range of voters across the political spectrum — including some who are switching parties, even if just for this election, because they are upset with the direction of politics in Wisconsin.

Here are the thoughts of some of the voters we heard from:

James Wigderson, a Republican voting Democrat in this election and former editor of Right Wisconsin:

“Even though there’s not an issue on which I agree with Governor Tony Evers or with Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, I’m planning on voting for them in this November’s election. I’m planning on voting for Evers because we cannot trust Tim Michels to do the right thing when it comes to election integrity. And the same thing with Senator Ron Johnson. There’s no way after Ron Johnson’s track record in the last election cycle that we can trust him to be a responsible steward of our vote.”

“I always voted for Scott Walker, I was a big supporter of him. And I supported Ron Johnson in 2010, and 2016 as well I continued to support him. It was only after that, that when he made that turn in 2020, in stereo with the conspiracy theories and things like that, that I realized that I could no longer support him.”

“I could probably forgive Ron Johnson for his anti-vaccine nonsense, and a few other things. I could probably forgive him and still vote for him against Mandela Barnes. But the democracy issue is just overwhelming, is the most important thing. Nothing that conservatives can accomplish will be lasting if we don’t protect our Constitution. And Ron Johnson has by his own actions put our Constitution in danger.”

“I think that Tim Michels will have the power in 2024 to decide whether or not to certify Wisconsin’s elections, and that could throw not just Wisconsin into chaos, but think about that Wisconsin is a swing state for the entire country. And if it comes down to Wisconsin in the presidential election, suddenly Tim Michels will be making a decision that could affect everybody.”

“I think that unfortunately, the Republican Party needs to have a severe — needs to take a severe thumping at the polls, in one election cycle, in order for it to recover its sanity. I don’t think it’s going to happen this election cycle. But maybe in the next election cycle.”

Kimberly Smith, voting Republican:

“You know, with this election season, I’m not looking for a hero. I’m not looking for somebody who’s going to save me, I’m looking for somebody who is going to work with me, and work with and for my family. So they are safe, we are financially stable. And you know, it’s the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the basics. So I think any candidate that supports that is going to have my vote.”

“I’ve realized that it’s more important to vote for the candidate, who is who aligns with their values and not a party. I think that’s so important. Otherwise, we begin to get into patterns of behavior with candidates that they stay in office too long.”

“I would say number one, is the economy. It’s inflation. I think it hits most people, the fastest, you know. Things like crime, education, doesn’t affect everyone. But inflation in the economy affects every person.”

“I think there’s two types of people who will be less likely to be engaged, somebody who is apathetic, they’re frustrated, they see both parties, and they’re disgruntled, they’re angry, and they’re fed up. And they’re done. And that’s, I think, a growing population of people who are frustrated with the negative ads, and negative energy and negative dialogue that people are having. And I can’t blame them. They’re, they’re frustrated. They’re like, I’m done. I’m done with this stuff. So that’s the group. And I think people who are a little bit more isolated, maybe single people who maybe don’t have kids and are not as engaged and they feel like well, I don’t have any skin in the game, so I’m not going to vote.”

Claire Freeman, voting Democrat:

“The Democrats like to talk big, they say all the things to get all the votes, but then when it comes down to like actually enacting any of those policies that they put forward, they kind of hammering and they don’t really do anything. Meanwhile, the Republicans can go and just do whatever they want without much opposition. And we just Democrats are like, oh, we need to come together in a bipartisan response. And Republicans are like, nah, we want our way and they pretty much get their way.”

“Tim Michels scares the absolute heck out of me, because he’s just so — he’s backed by Trump. And, like, ‘I’m gonna go and shake up Madison, I don’t care who I offend.’ And that’s not good. But that’s not a political stance, you can take this, I’m going to offend everybody, because then you’re just you just want to be the loudest voice in the room. And the loudest voice in the room being, ‘I don’t like gay people and women or don’t deserve abortions,’ and that sort of thing. So really scared to see him.”

“Same-sex marriage, I feel like, is still kind of on the chopping block. Trans rights for sure. Like, it’s a big one for me, trans rights, and climate change. Those are my big things. And candidates that can put forth agendas that support those things are what I’m leaning towards. Especially with trans rights being such a big issue right now. That’s probably my biggest one. But like, it’s kind of tied with everything else. So it’s really hard to say which one’s most important, but I kind of put more emphasis on the trans rights one because that’s kind of coming up everywhere.”

Yengkong Thao, has voted for both parties in past:

“Every candidate has just their bits and pieces so no none in particular right now. They’re not really hitting me on the spot.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m either a Democrat or Republican yet. I wouldn’t say I’m a Libertarian either. So yeah, it’s very hard to identify with one. In terms of my peers and me, with us we just tend to talk with — talk to each other about our — our viewpoints of the person and not the actual party itself.”

William Blathras, Executive Director of Wisconsin College Republicans:

“I think it’s the issue of abortion we have it outlawed now with the law that was passed in 1849 and I think it’s important that we as Republicans enforce that, I think it’s a morally virtuous law. So for me it’s about defending that and getting politicians in across state levels and across the national level who will uphold that virtuous law.”

“It’s important that we have people kind of with an outside perspective, we have a lot of establishment people who come from these backgrounds where their families have always been involved so it’s good to have outside opinions, new ideas come to the table instead of just people seeking to further their own self-interests or their allies self-interests.”

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