Most voters view unions for public employees favorably, 51 percent according to the exit poll, and Walker's push for changes to the collective bargaining law prompted huge demonstrations on Madison's capital square as well as a successful petition drive last fall to recall Walker.
Yet, on Tuesday, most Wisconsin voters suggested the criteria for recalls should be tougher. There have only been three such elections in the nation's history, the most recent in 2003, when voters recalled Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis.
The vast majority of voters said recall elections should be allowed in at least some cases, though most feel they are appropriate only in cases of official misconduct.
"I just think the whole recall election was uncalled for and it was just a big waste of taxpayers' money," said Jeff Naunheim, 48, a warranty analyst from St. Francis who voted for Walker in the recall. "I don't think he did anything illegal. And if this is going to set the standard on how things are going to go in the future, it's going to be an ugly, divided mess."
The exit poll of 2,457 Wisconsin voters was conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Research in a random sample of 35 precincts statewide. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
Agiesta reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Scott Bauer and Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.