Poll: Majority Opposes Laws Restricting Public Employee Unions

A new national poll suggests that moves to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions are not popular with the public at large:

A new national poll suggests that moves to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions are not popular with the public at large:

The public strongly opposes laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions as a way to ease state financial troubles, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

The poll found that 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.

Ohio and several other states that have new Republican governors and legislative majorities are considering laws that would reduce the power of government employee unions to bargain over benefits and work rules.

This stands in contrast to a new Rasmussen poll released yesterday which suggests that voters are supportive of Governor Scott Walker in the Wisconsin dispute:

A sizable number of voters are following new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s showdown with unionized public employees in his state, and nearly half side with the governor.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

In an effort to close the state’s sizable budget deficit, Walker is proposing to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees including teachers on everything but wage issues. He is excluding public safety workers such as policemen and firemen from his plan.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

The differences between the two polls can be explained by three factors:

  1. The two polls ask different questions;
  2. Gallup polls “adults” while Rasmussen polls “likely voters”; and,
  3. Rasmussen polls should be considered suspect considering the extent to which they over-sampled Republican voters during the 2010 midterms

So, take both of them for what they’re worth. Personally, I’d like to see some polling from inside Wisconsin to see how this is playing there for Walker and the Republicans. That’s likely to have a bigger say in how this standoff ends up getting resolved than a few national polls.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  Additionally, as Nate Silver notes, the Rasmussen poll biases responses by poisoning the well:

According to the firm’s statement of question wording, these were the first four questions Rasmussen asked in the poll:

1: How closely have you followed news reports about the Wisconsin governor’s effort to limit collective bargaining rights for most state employees?

2: Does the average public employee in your state earn more than the average private sector worker in your state, less than the average private sector worker in your state, or do they earn about the same amount?

3: Should teachers, firemen and policemen be allowed to go on strike?

4: In the dispute between the governor and the union workers, do you agree more with the governor or the union for teachers and other state employees?

There is nothing wrong with the first question, which simply asks people whether they have been following events in Madison. But the second and third questions are arguably problematic.

The issue is clearest with the third question, which asked respondents whether “teachers, firemen and policemen” should be allowed to go on strike. By invoking the prospect of such strikes, which are illegal in many places (especially for the uniformed services) and which many people quite naturally object to, the poll could potentially engender a less sympathetic reaction toward the protesters in Wisconsin. It is widely recognized in the scholarship on the subject, and I have noted before, that earlier questions in a survey can bias the response to later ones by framing an issue in a particular way and by casting one side of the argument in a less favorable light.

I actually think all four questions are valid, as they measure attitudes and the degree of information people have about the subject. But Question 4 should have followed Question 1, with the others asked afterwards.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Gallup should also be considered suspect using “adults” vs “likely voters” … i.e. oversamples liberal policies …

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    “Personally, I’d like to see some polling from inside Wisconsin to see how this is playing there for Walker and the Republicans.”

    I think that was done last November.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “Gallup should also be considered suspect using ‘adults’ vs ‘likely voters’ … i.e. oversamples liberal policies …”

    Oh, there are more liberal adults than liberal likely voters…how interesting…

    “I think that was done last November.”

    Just because a majority of voters who came to the polls in November voted for these particular people does not mean that a majority of the citizens of Wisconsin nor even the majority of those voters want public-sector unions to lose their collective bargaining rights…

  4. Terrye says:

    Oh come on..look at the inconsistencies in the Gallup poll. 61% percent do not like limiting unions, most about half don’t like the unions at all?

    And then there is the Clarus poll that came out a few days ago in which 64% stated that they did not even support the entire idea of public service unions.

    I think a lot of these people doing polls ask questions in a certain way to get a certain response, but it seems a little ridiculous to single out Rasmussens. After all, it is standard operating procedure for many media polsters to over sample Democrats and no one seems to care all that much.

    But one thing is for sure, the Republicans won in Wisconsin promising to do what they are doing right here. They also won in places like Ohio on the same issues. It seems to me that if people really did not like the idea of limiting the power of public service unions these Republicans would not be running these state governments right now.

  5. Terrye says:

    An Interested Party:

    Yes, there are more liberal adults than liberal actual voters, because a liberal adult can be anyone over 18 who answers the phone. Voting means you can’t be a felon, you have to be a citizen, who have to have a valid form of ID..etc.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Well poisoning is standard Rasmussen practice but needless to say that’s ok with Doug if it produces a result he likes. The results of the Gallup polll are similar to one conducted in WI which surprised me slightly since I consider WI a fairly liberal state. Either way I think Walker is screwed in the long term because once it became clear that this was an issue of worker rights it was over. Most people tend to think there but for te grace of god go I.

    Terrye says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 15:51
    Oh come on..look at the inconsistencies in the Gallup poll. 61% percent do not like limiting unions, most about half don’t like the unions at all?

    Oh come on Terry do grow up, inconsistencies in polls are common as swallows in spring, and Gallup know how to conduct respectable polls.

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    Terrye says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 15:51
    “Oh come on..look at the inconsistencies in the Gallup poll. 61% percent do not like limiting unions, most about half don’t like the unions at all?”

    It’s not even that much of an inconsistency btw…I’m not an incredible fan of unions but that’s a long way from thinking their rights to bargain should be removed.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    Patrick T. McGuire says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 14:43

    There’s a WI poll up it’s fairly similar, I think 63% opposed to eliminating bargaining rights.

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    Terrye and co…it’s not even statistically close in the Gallup poll, way outside the MOE.

  10. Gulliver says:

    The repubs in Wi should do exactly what the Dems did; pass the legislation and see if they get reelected. As has been pointed out they won their current seats by promising to do exactly what they are doing. Let the dogs bark and see who’s standing two years from now when the dust settles.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    Gulliver says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 17:13
     
    They can't legally pass the legislation without a quorum. And even if they rammed it through you're lookihg at months of disruption.

  12. PJ says:

    It’s great that Rasmussen already knows who will vote in November 2012, 20 months from now…

  13. Gulliver says:

    They can't legally pass the legislation without a quorum.
     
    Yes, I know.  The republicans can't legally pass the legislation until the dems quit acting illegally.  But – naturally – they're acting illegally <em> for a good cause </em>  so its perfectly fine.   And the circus continues with the clowns beating a hasty exit stage left…

  14. An Interested Party says:

    "It seems to me that if people really did not like the idea of limiting the power of public service unions these Republicans would not be running these state governments right now."
    Actually, if the economy had not been in such bad shape back in November, these Republicans might not have ever been elected in the first placel…but hey, I'm sure the bad economy can be blamed on public sector unions too…
     
    "Voting means you can’t be a felon, you have to be a citizen, who have to have a valid form of ID..etc." 
    Ohhhh…so most liberals are criminals, illegal aliens, and people who have no valid form of ID…thank you for the clarification…