Watch CBSN Live

Early Wisconsin recall exit polls show Obama has edge over Romney in presidential race

Obama, Romney go after each other
US President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Getty Images

(CBS News) Voters in Wisconsin are deciding today whether to recall their governor, but many are looking to the race to provide clues into the presidential election this November. And early CBS News exit polls show that President Obama would have an advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the battleground state if the presidential race was held today.

Among voters in today's recall election, 51 percent said they would pick Mr. Obama, compared to 45 percent for Romney. Two percent say they won't vote. However, it should be noted that there is a lot of time before the November elections, and it's too soon to tell what the electorate will be like in five months.

In 2008, Mr. Obama defeated Republican Sen. John McCain by 14 percentage points in Wisconsin.

The recall election in Wisconsin pits Republican Gov. Scott Walker versus Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, in a rematch of their 2010 race. The recall effort was brought about mainly in response to Walker's plan that restricted collective bargaining rights for public union workers. Today, 52 percent of Wisconsin voters in the early exit polls have a favorable view of unions for government workers, while 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion of these unions. Among voters in unions households (public or not), 69 percent view these unions favorably.

On the issue of collective bargaining, 50 percent of Wisconsin voters say they approved of the recent changes to state law that limits collective bargaining for government workers, but 48 percent disapproved of these changes.

In Wisconsin, reports of voter suppression efforts
Will Scott Walker survive Wisconsin recall election?

More generally, 54 percent of Wisconsin voters surveyed think government should generally have a more limited role when it comes to solving problems, compared to 42 percent who said government should do more. These views are similar to November 2010.

The exit polls also showed that 60 percent of Wisconsin voters today said recall elections are only appropriate for official misconduct, while 28 percent think they are suitable for any reason. Nine percent think they are never appropriate.

Fifty-three percent of Barrett's supporters say their vote today was mainly for their candidate, but 45 percent say it was against his opponents. Among Walker's supporters, about nine in 10 describe their vote as mainly for Walker -- only 8 percent say their vote was mainly against his opponents.

As for when voters in Wisconsin made their selections in the race, just 6 percent say they decided on their candidate in the last few days, with 93 percent saying they made up their minds before that.

On the presidential race, the early exit polls also showed that Mr. Obama had an edge over Romney on voters' views of who would better improve the economy - 45 percent to 37 percent. In addition, Mr. Obama was ahead 48 percent to 35 percent on the question of who would be better to help the middle class.

Lastly, the exit poll also asked Wisconsin voters of their views about the Democratic and Republican parties. Forty-seven percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, with 50 percent saying they had an unfavorable view. A similar forty-seven percent said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, and 50 percent had an unfavorable view.

More details from the exit polls will be released after the polls close in Wisconsin at 9 p.m. ET.

Kevin Hechtkopf
Kevin Hechtkopf

Kevin Hechtkopf is's politics editor.

View CBS News In