According to the latest Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on landline and cell phones, only 17 percent favor disbursing lifetime retirement benefits to retired government workers before age 60. In fact, 50 percent prefer government workers wait until age 65 before becoming eligible to collect retirement benefits.

In many states, government workers may retire and begin receiving lifetime retirement benefits before age 60. However, in the state of Wisconsin, 79 percent of residents think public employees should wait until at least age 60 before becoming eligible to receive retirement benefits.

Differences across political and demographic subgroups emerge with raising the retirement benefit eligibility age to 65. Whereas 52 percent of private sector workers want to raise the eligibility age to sixty-five, 41 percent of public sector workers agree. Notably, half of retired former public employees think the eligibility age should be raised to at least age 65. Majorities of Republicans and Independents want to increase the eligibility age to 65, compared to 44 percent of Democrats.

These results match up with previous polling done in Wisconsin. For instance, a 2011 Rasmussen poll asked likely Wisconsin voters to consider several hypotheticals. Rasmussen asked:

“Suppose someone becomes a teacher right out of college and stays for 30 years until they retire at age 52. Should that person receive a full pension for life at age 52 or should that person find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive their full pension?” 60 percent said the teacher should wait until about age 65 to receive their full pension.

“Suppose someone joins the police force at age 20 and stays for 25 years until they retire at age 45. Should that person receive a full pension for life at age 45 or should that person find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive their full pension?” 65 percent of Wisconsin voters said the police officer should wait until about age 65 to receive retirement benefits.

These Reason-Rupe poll results of Wisconsin residents suggest the public is open to reforming the terms of public sector workers’ contracts and the age at which public employees become eligible to receive lifetime retirement benefits. 

Full poll results can be found here and cross tabs here.

ORC International conducted fieldwork for the poll, May 14th-18th 2012 of both mobile and landline phones, 708 Wisconsin adults, margin of error +/- 3.7%.  Likely Wisconsin voters (609, MOE +/-4%) include registered respondents who said they are absolutely certain to vote or very likely to vote in the June 5th recall election for governor.

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.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated 17 percent of Wisconsin residents favor disbursing retirement benefits to government workers before age 65, the post should say before age 60.