USA Today/Gallup Poll: 61% Oppose Limiting Union Bargaining Power

A warning flag? Amid the ongoing drama in Wisconsin where Gov. Scott Walker is digging in his heels to remove collective bargaining from public employees unions, and reports that other GOP Governers are poised to try the same thing, a new poll finds 61 percent of voters oppose limiting union bargaining power. Yet another poll shows Walker is now also taking a hit with his voters in his own state.

Several things about this:

  • Traditionally (as I have said many many MANY times here and on my Twitter account) people tout polls when they support their side and will argue about flawed methodology when it does not (much like the way some liberals quote MSNBC’s Chris Matthews when they like what he says but call him “Tweety” when they don’t). This has happened for years, by partisans on both sides. It’s all about spin and not wanting to accept a poll result. But if you see two polls that suggest a trend, it is unlikely to be a mirage.
  • The warning flag should be to the GOP. This again is seemingly lining up as an issue that pitts the Republican party conservative base and in particularly what I call the talk radio political culture (talk radio of the ear, cyberpace talk radio which is essentially what many blogs are, and politicians who talk in talk radio like sound bites that excite a party base) against what is a fact of American political life: there IS a center. It may shift left or right, but it is there and the danger for a political party is when it loses the center it could lose the independent voters.
  • During Bill Clinton’s Presidency the big focus was on how Republicans overreached and quickly outwore what seemed to be a big welcome given to them by voters who felt Clinton had worn out his quickly with them. Reports suggest Republicans don’t intend to make the same mistake this time if there is a government shut down. But these polls suggest the overreaching could be here — on the issue of unions.
  • No matter how it is spun, many Americans, even those who are not huge union supporters could be turned off by what is now appearing to be a clearly political move to take advantage of the lousy economy and budget ills to bust a union that supports Democrats. Forget the partisan spin (which you hear and see and read). There is a financial problem but it is increasingly clear that Walker sees a political benefit from this — as reports suggesting that his action will be cloned in some other GOP controlled states if he can do it (and he likely WILL).
  • There may be valid reasons to want to curtail collective bargaining but to many voters what’s going on in Wisconsin does not pass — here comes that horrible phrase — “the smell test.” And I have often contended that in elections many voters will vote for the party that reeks less.
  • The 2010 elections suggested a rapid buyers’ remorse on the part of many voters for casting their votes for the Dems. Are the Republicans positioned to set a record for buyers’ remorse if voters think focus is on scuttling Democratic party-sympathizing unions’ rights versus genuinely tackling what needs to be fixed in the economy?

  • Here’s the poll on union rights:

    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.

    Wisconsin is the first state to consider the limits, prompting protests that have closed schools and drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol in Madison.

    The poll results suggest how politically difficult it is to solve budget shortfalls. The survey found that people believe budget problems in their state are real but strongly oppose tax hikes to solve them. Americans are split on whether to cut state services to balance budgets.

    Go to the link for more details.

    And the poll on Walker:


    Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a respected Democratic polling firm released a polling memo Sunday showing that Walker’s approval rating is under water with likely voters, with 51 percent disapproving. And specifically regarding the Madison showdown, Walker is the least popular figure among those surveyed, with 43 percent of likely voters agreeing with his stance and 53 percent disagreeing; contrast that with state GOP lawmakers (48-46 agree), state Democratic lawmakers (56-39), Unions (59-37), the protesters (62-31), and public employees (67-24).

    This might be related to the public unions calling Walker’s budget bluff. The governor has tried to frame his proposal as being budget-focused, that concessions are required from the public workers because of the state’s fiscal emergency (never mind, as my bloleague Anson Kaye pointed out yesterday, that it is an emergency of his own creation). But when the unions offered to meet his financial demands in exchange for keeping their collective bargaining rights (or as Walker seems to view them, “collective bargaining privileges”), he said that wasn’t good enough–they had to concede everything.

    It’s worth noting that there ARE financial issues involving unions that need to be thrashed out by governors and unions. But what’s unfolding now in Wisconsin seems so patently political that Walker and the GOP appear to be losing the country’s center.

    For instance, New York has an issue going on there but not on the same scale. The New York Daily News’ Bill Hammond:

    The lefties and labor leaders squawking about Gov. Cuomo’s budget look pretty silly given what’s going on in Wisconsin these days.

    In the face of a $10 billion deficit, Cuomo proposes shaving a mere 2.7% off a bloated state budget, and they tag him as “Draconian.”

    He asks public employee unions to make modest concessions in a major fiscal crisis, and they accuse of him waging class warfare.

    Frankly, these complainers should thank their lucky stars that they’re dealing with nice-guy, union-friendly Cuomo rather than the Cheeseheads’ chief executive, Scott Walker.

    Like Cuomo – and most Americans – Walker thinks government workers should chip in more for their generous benefits. Specifically, he wants Wisconsin schoolteachers and others to contribute 6% of their salary toward their pensions and 12% toward health coverage – both perfectly reasonable amounts that Cuomo should be shooting for in New York.

    But the overlap between Walker’s agenda and Cuomo’s ends there.

    While Cuomo wants to negotiate givebacks at the bargaining table, Walker is trying to impose them unilaterally, with the help of fellow Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature.

    And Walker’s demands go way beyond money-saving measures, to steps that would cripple public employee unions as a political force.


    A FEW OTHER VIEWPOINTS:

    Gawker:

    While the poll does not specifically mention Wisconsin, the results are a fairly strong repudiation of Walker’s efforts. Walker’s proposal would roll back almost all collective bargaining rights for state employees except for law enforcement personnel and firefighters. Salary negotiations would be exempted from the ban.

    Walker isn’t the only governor looking to use budget woes as a pretense to gut collective bargaining for public employees. Similar efforts are underway in Ohio, Tennessee and several other states.

    Talking Points Memo:

    That AFL-CIO sponsored poll released this morning suggested that Gov. Walker (R) was definitely on the wrong side of public opinion in the state. But that’s a poll sponsored by one of the players in the fight. But now there’s a nationwide poll out from USAToday/Gallup that says that 61% of Americans oppose the kind of attacks on public employees unions that Walker is putting. That’s nationwide. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised it’s that high, though I would have expected it to be in the majority.

    But I think we now have a growing body of evidence that using short-term budget crises to effectively ban public sector unions is not good politics.

    Steve Benen:

    Now, this was a national poll, so it doesn’t tell us how folks in Wisconsin feel about their own governor’s crusade, but the results nevertheless suggest Republicans, who’ve rallied in large numbers behind Walker and his proposal, are not on the same page as most Americans.

    The results should also send a signal to policymakers in other states who are planning Walker-like moves — I’m looking at you, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, and Tennessee — that the public isn’t buying the GOP’s anti-union line, at least not yet.

    No More Mr. Nice Blog was surprised by the polls:

    Earlier today I expressed pessimism about the public’s response to protests by government workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere — but maybe I was being too pessimistic. Like Steve Benen, I was waiting to see an independent poll about Wisconsin, and the first one we’re seeing is quite heartening…..The polls I quoted suggested that the public is much more lukewarm toward unions, if not a bit hostile — but those polls were conducted before the current battles in Wisconsin, Indiana, and elsewhere.

    I wonder if the right to be in a union is like the right to have an abortion — something about which a lot of people are ambivalent, or even disdainful … until there seems to be a serious threat to take the right away.


    UPDATE:
    Uh Oh Department: Get ready to hear comparisons with Egypt (you heard it here first). A pro-union website has been blocked in Wisconsin.