Incumbent Republican Ron Johnson found himself in a close race against his Democratic challenger, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, but managed to pull off a win, gaining a third term in the Senate.
Democrats sought to link Johnson tightly to former President Trump – who endorsed him. This may have had an effect, as Wisconsin voters’ view of the former president is not great – close to 6 in 10 have an unfavorable opinion of him.
Johnson did well among the third of voters who described themselves as “MAGA.” He also did well with men, men without a college degree, White Evangelicals and rural voters.
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Barnes would have been the first Black senator from Wisconsin, and Black voters backed him with 92% to 8% for Johnson. Voters under 30 also backed Barnes, as did liberals. Almost all voters who identified themselves as Progressives went for the Democrat.
Suburban voters broke slightly for Barnes 51% to 49% for Johnson. These are voters who went for Biden by 10 points in 2020, so this is a shift in Republicans’ favor. Parents also went for Johnson.
Schools were an issue in the campaign, with a focus on controversial curricula. More than half of all voters said they thought schools were spending too much time teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity – these voters broke for Johnson by almost 4 to 1.
But, the economy was by far the top issue – close to half of voters said it was their top concern and they broke for Johnson by more than 2 to 1. Abortion voters went for Barnes, but only about 1 in 10 said it was their top issue.
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Nine in ten voters said which party controls the Senate was an important factor to their vote – these voters barely went for Johnson.
When it comes to enthusiasm, supporters on each side seemed to be equally keen when it comes to their candidates, with more than half giving their guy a big thumbs-up.
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In the end, the difference may have it may have come down to party support – equal numbers of Democrats backed Barnes (99%) as Republicans backed Johnson (97%). Johnson’s advantage may have come from the fact that Wisconsin Republicans made up 49% of the electorate compared to 44% for Democrats.
The party that holds the White House hasn’t defeated a senator of the opposing party in Wisconsin since 1962. Johnson’s win keeps that streak going in 2022.