Okay, let’s get the big, dumb number out of the way. As Dan told you earlier, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll out today, Scott Walker leads Tom Barrett among likely voters in the Wisconsin recall election by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin. This represents a slight increase in Walker’s lead over many of the recent polls conducted, which generally show Walker with around a 5-point lead.
But while that number has an expiration date of June 5 (when the recall election is held), other poll findings could resonate in the state for the next few years. The survey asked respondents about a number of policy issues that have formed the core of Walker’s agenda, with many of his proposals receiving widespread support.
For instance, the poll is consistent with other polls in showing 72 percent of Wisconsinites in favor of requiring public employees to pay into their own pension accounts. Seventy-one percent of respondents also favored requiring state employees to pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums rather than 6 percent. We’ve seen these numbers before.
But it appears Walker’s arguments regarding public employees have begun to take hold. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they thought public sector workers receive better pension and health-care benefits than do private sector workers, 22 percent say benefit levels are about the same, and just 7 percent believe private-sector retirement benefits are better than those in the public sector.
Furthermore, 50 percent of respondents favored ending the practice of automatically deducting dues from government-employee paychecks, as opposed to 41 percent who supported the practice. And 47 percent of respondents favored limiting collective bargaining to wages only, while 46 percent opposed such a limitation. (This is why Tom Barrett has tried to make the campaign about everything but collective bargaining.)
Other union-related findings:#more#
44 percent of respondents said they believed public unions had too much power in negotiating their contracts, while 20 percent said they had too little power, and 29 percent said unions had just the right amount of power in negotiating contracts.
36 percent said public unions have hurt the state’s economy, while 26 percent said public unions helped the state economy; 32 percent believed public unions have not made much of a difference in the economy.
38 percent of respondents said they believe unions have hurt public education, while 28 percent said they believed public unions have helped; 28 percent said they believed unions made no difference in education.
But the poll not only asked about policies that had already been passed; it also signaled where the next step might lie for the state in controlling employee benefit costs. Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents (including 60 percent of independents) favored moving government employees from a defined-benefit-style plan to a 401(k)-style retirement plan that is more commonly offered in the private sector. (Democrats in Rhode Island recently made this change, and it cut the state’s unfunded liability in half the moment it was signed into law.)
The poll also conducted a test to determine how the wording of issues affected public perception. It asked half the respondents whether they supported “reducing collective bargaining rights,” and the other half whether they supported “limiting collective bargaining.” As expected, the half of the sample to which the issue was pitched as one of “rights” opposed reducing collective bargaining by a 52 percent to 43 percent margin. But the other half of the sample supported simply “limiting collective bargaining” by a margin of 51 percent to 43 percent.
Poll toplines are available here.
Full crosstabs are available here.