More data is now available pertaining to the attitudes of people in Wisconsin — and within America — regarding the Badger State’s highly publicized budget stand-off. Both sides remain intransigent in their positions. Polls are breaking relatively even in terms of support for Gov. Scott Walker (R) or the public employee unions. Walker’s backing has waned a bit after the unions said they would accept the governor’s financial terms in exchange for the bargaining organizations continuing to possess their current status and privileges. Walker rejected the compromise.
Three recent polls on the subject were entered into the public domain. The Wisconsin Reporter conducted a poll through Pulse Opinion Research, a company owned by Rasmussen Reports. The survey (Feb. 21; 500 “likely” Wisconsin voters) showed a virtual dead heat as to the respondents’ opinion of Gov. Walker’s performance. By a margin of 49-48%, the respondents were favorable toward Walker. Additionally, on a 71-22% count, those participating in the Reporter poll believe that the governor’s fiscal requirements placed upon the unions are fair, but a 56% majority also say that public employees should have the right to collectively bargain. With Wisconsin’s history of being a strong union state, breaking even is actually good news for Walker.
Public Policy Polling went into the field Feb. 24-27, interviewing 768 Wisconsin voters, and found Walker’s numbers to be weakening. PPP shows Walker’s job approval rating turning slightly upside down, now 46:52% favorable to unfavorable. The numbers actually might be a bit better for the governor than one might notice at first glance, however. Though Walker won the November election 52-46%, PPP reports a dead heat among the cell sample when asked gubernatorial preference from November. The governor received 47% of the group’s votes and Democratic nominee Tom Barrett garnered an equal percentage. By a 52-47% margin the respondents would vote in Barrett’s favor if the election were held today. In terms of recalling the governor, an equal number would sign a petition to place the question on the ballot (48%) as those who would not.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press also conducted a national survey on the Wisconsin situation through Princeton Data Source, under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The poll questioned 1,009 adults from around the country (678 via landline, 331 on cell phones) during the same Feb. 24-27 period as PPP. They found 41% of the respondents supported the union position and 32% back Gov. Walker. The key difference here is that Pew surveyed “adults,” not screening for likely or even registered voters. Such samples tend to skew more liberal. Thus their results, which slightly but decidedly favor the unions, are predictable.
The data assessing the political fall-out in Wisconsin show that Gov. Walker has more staying power than others who have proposed similar cuts in other places during previous times. The trend suggests that the pro-Walker forces must continue to reinforce the reasons for the governor’s actions as the union arguments are certainly gaining some steam, especially when considering whether or not the general population favors collective bargaining rights for public employees. It appears Walker needs to provide a stronger foundation to support his argument for wanting to change the current union representation system.
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