Reason-Rupe Poll on Wisconsin Recall: Walker Leads Barrett 50-42, Obama Leads Romney 46-36

Gov. Scott Walker leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 50-42 among those likely to vote in Wisconsin’s June 5 recall election, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on cell phones and landlines. 

In the presidential race, 49 percent of all adults surveyed approve of the job President Obama is doing and 45 percent disapprove. President Obama leads Mitt Romney 46-36 in Wisconsin, with 6 percent selecting the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. Obama’s margin over Romney shrinks to 45-41 among those likely to vote in June’s recall election, with Johnson taking what would be a crucial 5 percent of the vote.

The Reason-Rupe poll finds voters overwhelmingly support many of the key changes Gov. Walker and the legislature implemented on public sector pensions and health care last year. Reason-Rupe finds 72 percent favor the change requiring public sector workers to increase their pension contributions from less than 1 percent to 6 percent of their salaries. And 71 percent favor making government employees pay 12 percent of their own health care premiums instead of the previous 6 percent. 

Taxpayers actually wish state lawmakers had cast an even larger net with their reforms. Police and firefighters were exempted from the pension and health care adjustments but 57 percent of taxpayers say they should not have been. 

The public supports asking government workers to pick up more of the tab for their own retirement benefits, as 65 percent say public sector workers receive better pension and health care benefits than 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.

When asked what state and local officials should do if pensions and health benefits are underfunded, 74 percent favor requiring government employees to pay more for their own health care and retirement benefits. In sharp contrast, 75 percent oppose cutting funding for programs like education and 74 percent oppose raising taxes to help fund government worker benefits.

To deal with rising retirement costs, 69 percent favor shifting future state employees, those who haven’t been hired or promised pensions yet, to 401(k)-style retirement plans instead of the current defined-benefit plans.

If state and local governments have to reduce spending, voters were asked what should be cut first: 38 percent say public employee pension benefits, 29 percent believe prison and court cuts should be made first, 17 percent would reduce funding for roads and infrastructure, 5 percent chose education, and 4 percent would target health care spending.

Government employee unions are viewed favorably by 35 percent of those surveyed and unfavorably by 31 percent. Voters remain split on limiting the collective bargaining power of public sector unions, with 47 percent in favor of, and 46 percent opposed to, restricting unions’ ability to negotiate things like health care and pension benefits.

The Reason-Rupe poll finds significant differences in attitudes between public and private sector employees.  For example, 65 percent of government employees have a favorable view of public employee unions and just 11 percent view unions unfavorably. In contrast, only 27 percent of private sector employees have favorable opinions of public employee unions, while 37 percent view them unfavorably.

And while 72 percent of all respondents favor the law requiring public sector workers to increase their pension contributions, only 48 percent of government employees favor the change, while 80 percent of private sector employees favor it.

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online at http://reason.com/poll and here (.pdf).

This Reason-Rupe poll, conducted May 14-18, 2012 by ORC International, surveyed a random sample of 708 Wisconsin adults on cell phones and landlines. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. The poll includes 609 likely voters who are registered and said they are certain or likely to vote in the June 5 recall election. The margin of error for likely voters is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project, launched in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @emilyekins.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • PapayaSF||

    Obama can't rest easy with only 46%, even if that's more than Romney's 36%. After Johnson's 6%, that leaves (I assume) about 12% undecided, and won't most undecideds ultimately vote against an incumbent?

  • Joe R.||

    49% of all adults are fucking idiots, too. Preferring Obamney to Obamney is one thing; approving of Obama is another.

  • WTF||

    I think undecideds traditionally end up going about 80% against the incumbent.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Srynerson||

    So having Johnson in the race makes 5% of people more likely to vote for Romney??? (46-36 without Johnson; 45-41 with Johnson.)

  • Randian||

    The first set (46-36) represents all voters. The second set (45-41) is likely voters.

  • Rich||

  • DarkHelmet||

    These numbers are hard to credit. I can believe Walker is ahead by 8 though most polls show the lead more like 5%. I don't think there's any way Obama is 10% ahead of Romney here. I would guess it's about even or maybe Obama ahead by a point or two. Romney is the kind of Republican Wisconsin can favor: not a southerner, not scary, clean image, not excessively strident. Wisconsin independents are likely to break his way.

    Of course in both the Walker race and the November election the outcome will be dependent upon turnout. The better ground game will win, and the Republicans have to overcome the margin of cheating which could be 1-2%.

    BTW, there is no way Gary Johnson gets 5-6% of the vote in Wisconsin. Not going to happen. If he breaks above 1% I'll be surprised.

  • Apparently a 'statist'||

    "The better ground game will win, and the Republicans have to overcome the margin of cheating which could be 1-2%."

    [citation, not to mention less tinfiol, needed]

    You do realize that blah people and democrats, unlike O'Keefe and his fellow freedom fighters, have better things to do with their lives than risk jail time to get some extra votes in?

  • DarkHelmet||

    I'm not sure what 'blah people' are, but Democrats in Milwaukee have in fact risked jail time in order to get some extra votes in. The son of the former mayor was sentenced to prison for vandalizing a Republican campaign vehicle that was to be used for transporting voters during the 2004 election cycle. Fraudulent registration cards have been submitted. Votes recorded have exceeded the number of eligible voters in some precincts. A local politician was busted for voting in both Illinois and Wisconsin on the same day. Smokes for votes and sandwiches for votes have both been documented. The recent Walker recall petitions contained numerous duplicate and fraudulent signatures.

  • Apparently a 'statist'||

    I still can't stomach Walker's deciding gays are unfit to visit their loved ones in hospitals. What the fuck was that about, asshole?

    I also dislike the idea of industries getting more lenient environmental codes and custom-made tax breaks. Government shouldn't be buddy-buddy with corporate interests or public unions.

    I'm perfectly fine with having them pay more into their retirements, but removing collective bargaining entirely doesn't feel sensible.

    We'll see how the job creation goes if he survives the recall.

  • Danno||

    They can still collective bargain for salary.

  • Richard Rider||

    While Johnson gets 5% in the poll, that's NOT how his respondents will vote. 90% will vote for the "lesser evil" -- or perhaps not vote at all. Presumably most will conclude that Romney is the lesser evil.

    It's all about the "wasted vote" problem. And nowhere is that problem more pronounced than in a Presidential election, which, oddly enough, is where it makes the least sense.

    It's one thing to give one's PREFERENCE in a survey -- it's quite different when voting in a November election.

    No libertarian office seeker gets less percentage votes than our Presidential candidates. Sad but true. Check the stats.

    Johnson will be lucky to get 0.3% of the Presidential vote (including mine!). Mark my words.

  • lerm||

    Government workers are the third lazyest workers in the country. The lazyest workers are college and hospital maintenance men.

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