SJMC Research Team Answers, “What Makes Wisconsin Swing?”

What makes Wisconsin a swing state, and what causes some voters to split their ballots, voting for some Republicans and some Democrats? Mike Wagner, Jiyoun Suk, and other members of the Communication and Civic Renewal research team distill research from 2012 to 2018 to understand how heterogeneous communication flows can open people to candidates from other parties, softening attitudes toward candidates from opposing parties and drive split ticket voting. First using data from several 2012 Marquette Law School Polls, these researchers found that the Wisconsinites who talked more with family and friends — which tend to be more politically homogeneous groups — also expressed more polarized attitudes about Barack Obama, Scott Walker, the Tea Party, and public labor unions. In contrast, those who talked about politics with coworkers, showed less polarization in their evaluations of political leaders and groups. Next using original data from the 2018 midterm elections, they find that those with the most diverse media diets are as likely to split their ticket as not, even when controlling for their partisanship. Those whose media use looks more like an ideological echo chamber almost never split their tickets. The full story can be found on