July 24, 2014

Poll shows strong support for UW tuition freeze

If state lawmakers move to freeze tuition on University of Wisconsin campuses, the public will largely support that plan. That’s according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll, which found 76 percent of those responding support blocking the UW System from increasing tuition over the next two years.

A tuition freeze is on the minds of lawmakers after the recent disclosure by the UW that it’s sitting on a reserve fund that could top $1.2 billion by the end of June. Poll director Charles Franklin on Tuesday cautioned against reading too much into the number though, noting that previous polls had not asked about tuition so it’s impossible to tell if the support is tied directly to reports about the surplus.

The poll did show lawmakers could face public pushback if they try to reduce funding for the UW in the state budget. Governor Walker has proposed an additional $181 million for the System. Franklin says 50 percent of respondents support keeping that in the budget, while 44 percent favored reducing that figure.

The survey also covered a wide range of other questions, including gun control, presidential prospects in Wisconsin, and the direction of the state’s economy.

On job creation, the poll shows many people do not believe the state is moving very quickly. Only nine percent said the state is ahead of other states, while 49 percent believe the state is lagging behind. About 35 percent said Wisconsin is working at the same pace as other states.

Governor Scott Walker’s approval rating held relatively steady, compared to previous polls. Of those responding, 51 percent approve of the job Governor Walker is doing, which is within a few points of where the number has been for much of the past year.

Opinions on a plan to expand a private school voucher program also saw little change from Marquette’s last poll in March. Franklin says 32 percent of respondents wanted statewide expansion, 16 percent supported a move to add them in the state’s nine largest districts, 15 percent wanted no expansion at all, and 29 percent said vouchers should be ended all together.

The poll of 717 registered voters was carried out by phone May 6-9. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.