Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has caught a lot of flak for his proposal to strip public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights. He can add to that a new poll of likely Wisconsin voters from Rasmussen — a pollster much maligned for its typically Republican-skewing results — which finds public opinion firmly against him on the issue.
A majority of those polled said they sided with the public employee unions rather than Gov. Walker in the showdown that has deadlocked the state government for more than two weeks. And while a plurality favor a plan to make state employees pay more toward their benefit plans — something the unions have already agreed to do — a majority oppose the most contentious proposal put forward by Walker: the elimination of most collective bargaining rights for state employee unions.
Just as damning for Walker, a majority also said they sided with the AWOL Senate Democrats, who fled the state to deny the senate the quorum necessary to advance the budget repair bill.
Despite Walker’s efforts to paint Senate Democrats as being in dereliction of duty for fleeing the state to stall the budget bill, 52% of respondents in the poll said they were more supportive of the Democrats than Walker, compared to 44% who were more supportive of Walker.
As to the question of collective bargaining rights, 56% said they were on the unions’ side in the debate, while 41% said they sided with Walker. Further, 52% said they oppose Walker’s proposal to cut collective bargaining rights for state unions, compared to 39% who said they support that proposal.
Walker has insisted that rolling back collective bargaining rights is a necessary step toward producing a balanced budget. While state unions have already agreed to make concessions on the amount of money they pay toward benefits, Walker has refused to back down on collective bargaining, even as protesters continue to flood the state capitol.
Another key detail — the poll shows younger voters being generally more supportive of unions and collective bargaining rights than those in older demographics. That’s a reversal of what is often assumed to be the case — younger voters tilting liberal on social issues, while older voters lean liberal on the labor issues.
For example, 63% of respondents aged 18-39 opposed weakening collective bargaining rights, while 46% of respondents in both the 40-64 year-old and 65+ demographics said the same.
That could be a bad omen for the GOP in future elections, especially if they continue to take aim at organized labor — there are similar labor battles heating up in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, and elsewhere.
The Rasmussen poll was conducted March 2 among 800 likely voters in Wisconsin. It has a margin of error of 4.0%.