There have now been two recent polls suggesting that more Americans still side with the public sector unions against Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, despite anecdotal evidence that such unions are losing the public relations battle with governors like Chris Christie. The Pew Research Center found that 42 percent sided with the unions and 31 percent with Walker. (A full 18 percent were undecided and 9 percent said a pox on both their houses.)
A New York Times/CBS News poll was even more favorable to the unions. Sixty percent opposed taking away some collective bargaining rights from public employees compared to only 33 percent who were in favor; 56 percent were against cutting their pay or benefits. In both surveys, Democrats, young voters, the poor, and minorities side heavily with the unions while Republicans and affluent voters are either split or narrowly in favor of Walker. The Pew poll, for instance, had only 53 percent of Republicans backing Walker.
Some of this has to do with how the polls are worded. People are generally not going to tell pollsters they support taking away anyone’s “rights,” to collective bargaining or otherwise. But there does seem to be a lack of awareness about how dire the fiscal situation is, how high the pay and benefits are in some cases relative to the private sector, and how difficult it would be to deal with these unfunded liabilities solely by raising taxes. It might be surprising, but then there aren’t many Republicans as effective at communicating this as Christie and there are a lot of people telling the unions’ easy-to-grasp side of the story.
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