Yet another poll in Wisconsin, this time commissioned by a free-market think tank, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, shows voters disapproving of Gov. Scott Walker, and saying he should compromise on his budget proposal and its anti-public employee union provisions. Furthermore, the key groups with whom Walker is jousting — Democrats in the state legislature, public employee unions in general, teachers’ unions in particular — all have significantly better favorable ratings than he does.
It should be noted that WPRI’s polling, despite the organization’s ideological bent, is often cited in Wisconsin’s media as a reliable survey, and is conducted by UW-Madison political science professor Ken Goldstein. This demographically weighted poll of Wisconsin adults was conducted from February 27-March 1, and has a ±4% margin of error.
Walker’s overall approval ratings and personal favorable numbers are identical, at 43% approval/favorable to 53% disapproval/unfavorable, with only some internal variation between the “strongly” and “somewhat” sub-categories in each.
By contrast, the favorable-unfavorable numbers for the Democrats in the legislature — who are most famous now for the minority state Senate Dems, who have fled the state in order to block budget quorum on the proposals — stand at 50%-42%. The public employee unions’ favorables are 59%-34%, and teachers’ unions are at 59%-36%.
The only bad number for the state Senate Dems came on a question that directly asked about their fleeing the state: “Do you approve or disapprove of Senate Democrats’ decision to leave the state in order to prevent the passage of the budget repair bill that would reduce public employee benefits and change collective bargaining rights?” Here the answer was a very close approve 47%, disapprove 51%.
The poll also offered this lengthy explanation of Walker’s proposal, asking respondents whether they favored it:
As you may know, Governor Scott Walker recently announced a plan that would require public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay greater amounts for their health insurance, which would, in effect, be a pay reduction. The plan would permit most public employees to negotiate only their wages, and future wage increases above the rate of inflation would have to be approved by a voter referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year. In addition, Walker’s plan also changes rules to require public employee unions to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union, stops state or local government from collecting union dues, and allows individual members to decide if they wish to pay union dues. Unions for law enforcement and firefighters would be exempt from the changes.
Do you favor or oppose Governor Walker’s plan?
The result: Favor 46%, Oppose 51%.
A later question:
I’m going to read you two statements about the current conflict over public employee benefits and collective bargaining rights, and I want to know which one comes closest to your view. Governor Walker should stand strong for the plan he has proposed no matter how long the protests go on, OR Governor Walker should negotiate with Democrats and public employees’ unions in order to find a compromise solution.
And here Walker is really doing badly: Stand strong 33%, Compromise 65%.
From Goldstein’s pollster analysis: “Not surprisingly, this is driven largely by partisan dynamics. About 77 percent of Republicans think the governor should stand strong and 94 percent of Democrats want a compromise. The key here is independents. Independents overwhelmingly want the governor to compromise with 68 percent believing he should do so and 29 percent thinking he should stand strong.”
Some people say that the proposed changes to public employees’ collective bargaining rights are a necessary reform because they will give local governments greater flexibility to control their budgets over several years. Others say that public employees are willing to compromise on pensions and benefits, but limiting collective bargaining rights does nothing to address the state’s budget situation and is really an just attempt to get rid of public employee unions. Which of these statements comes closest to your point of view?
The result: Necessary reform 43%, an attempt to get rid of public employee unions 50%.