Poll Shows Majority Support Public Employee Unions and Collective Bargaining
With the stalemate over public sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin continuing into another week of protests in the state Capitol, Madison, the New York Times reports poll results quite supportive of public sector collective bargaining rights — results that should make the protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, and other state houses feel good, and give the Republican governors and Tea Partiers pause.
Key Finding: 60 Percent Oppose Taking Away Public Employee Collective Bargaining Rights
The New York Times Poll (full results here) found that 60 percent of respondents oppose taking away public employee bargaining rights either strongly (38%) or somewhat (22%). Only 18% strongly favor this change.
In addition to opposition to this change from 71 percent of Democrats, the poll found opposition from 62 percent of independents.
A slight majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, but they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who opposed this.
Far from being a liberal Democrat-tilting survey group, only 19 percent of the poll respondents characterized themselves as liberals, and only 26 percent as Democrats.
37 percent said they were moderate and 36 percent conservative. 36 percent said they were Republican and 31 percent Independent.
Surprising Openness to Tax Hikes
Asked in the Times survey what they would choose to do to reduce their state’s budget deficit, if they could choose only one thing, 40 percent said “increase taxes,” compared to 22 percent “decrease benefits of public employees,” and 20 percent “decrease funding for roads.” Only 3 percent chose “decrease funding for education.”
Public Not Buying Claim That Public Employees Are Overpaid
Only 26 percent of survey respondents said they thought public employees pay and benefits were “too high,” compared to 36 percent “about right” and fully 25 percent “too low.”
Consistent with this view, 56 percent opposed strongly (29%) or somewhat (27%) cutting public employee pay and benefits.
Results Not Biased by Union Membership
20 percent of those surveyed had a union member in their household.
However, a majority of survey respondents without any union members in their households opposed both cutting public employees’ pay or benefits and taking away their collective bargaining rights.
Politicians’ Motives Doubted
45 percent said they believed political leaders who are trying to reduce pay or benefits of public workers were doing so to reduce budget deficits, as they claim. But 41 percent said they thought the true reason was to weaken unions’ power.
Public Wary of Further Declines in Union Influence?
In a 1981 poll, taken soon after President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers, 60 percent of those surveyed said unions had “too much influence.”
Union membership has declined dramatically since then. Now only 37 percent of those surveyed said they believed unions have “too much influence,” while 48 percent said they had the “right amount” (29%) or “too little” (19%) influence.
Lastly, only 25 percent said their opinion of unions was unfavorable, compared to 33 percent favorable. A large portion of survey respondents were either undecided (19%) or hadn’t heard enough (20%).