When tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the Wisconsin Capitol in February and March 2011, the protests were all about Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill and how it changed collective bargaining for public employees.
In fact, it was the outrage over the passage of that bill — known as Act 10 when it became law — that was the impetus for the effort to .
But with the Democratic primary election less than a week away, and the general recall election slated for June 5, the issue of collective bargaining has pretty much taken a back seat to jobs and other issues, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The Marquette University Law School Poll says 46 percent of those who are likely to vote in Tuesday's Democratic said job creation is the most important issue when it comes to choosing a candidate.
"Defeating Walker" was listed second at 25 percent, while "reducing political divisions" was picked by 14 percent of likely Democratic voters.
Coming in last among voters? Restoring collective bargaining rights, which was considered the top issue by just 12 percent of those surveyed.
"It's a little funny to see this switch," said Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin. "Collective bargaining was at the center of the protests and the recall efforts, but now seems to have fallen off a bit."
The voters' focus on jobs hasn't been lost on the candidates, either.
The top two Democrats in the primary race — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk — both have made jobs a key focus on their campaigns.
At a press conference last week, Barrett called jobs the defining issue of the campaign, the Journal Sentinel reported.
And when the news surfaced that over the last 12 months, Falk said: "Every report card that comes in for Governor Walker shows he’s failing Wisconsin."
Walker also has made jobs a top issue in the race, noting that much of the state's job loss has been in Milwaukee, where Barrett is the top elected official. A Walker spokeswoman said last week that Barrett "would do well to accept responsibility for the fact that he has yet to develop or implement any viable plan to help address Milwaukee’s unemployment crisis."
The Marquette poll also showed that voters are more pessimistic about their perception of the jobs situation in Wisconsin.
In a similar poll in March, 24 percent said the state had lost jobs over the previous 12 months, while 34 percent said the state had gained jobs. That was reversed in the poll released Wednesday, with 38 percent saying jobs had been lost and 21 percent saying the state added jobs.
"There's not been a lot of areas where we’ve seen a lot of movement in perceptions except in jobs," Franklin said. "Voter views can change quite a bit from month to month. The numbers show that voters are not completely settled in their views."
The poll of 705 likely voters also showed 38 percent to 21 percent, with 8 percent for Secretary of State Doug La Follette and 6 percent for state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.
In a June general election race between Barrett and Walker, Barrett leads by one percentage point, 47-46, among all registered voters, while Walker leads by one percentage point, 48-47, among likely voters.
Both results are well within the margin of error of the poll, making a Walker-Barrett match-up a dead heat.