Government Reform

Differences of Opinion Over Private Sector, Government Worker Benefits

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As I noted earlier, 50 percent of Americans believe that public sector employees receive better benefits than those with similar jobs in the private sector. Just 14 percent believe government employees receive benefits that are worse than the private sector's.

The Reason-Rupe telephone poll of 1,200 Americans also asked respondents who stated they were working full-time if they worked in the public or private sector, providing unique insight into the two groups.  

Of people working full-time in the private sector, 60 percent believe government employees have better benefits than those working in similar jobs in the private sector.In contrast, just 44 percent of public sector employees say that they receive better benefits than workers in similar jobs in the private sector.

The Reason-Rupe poll followed up by asking if respondents would support or oppose cutting public employee benefit plans to help balance state budgets. Only 37 percent of Americans favored cutting government worker benefits, with over 44 percent opposed.

Reason-Rupe Poll Cut Public Sector Benefits

The answers to this question are somewhat different when looking at where people work, however. It's clear-cut that 61 percent of government workers oppose cutting their own benefits. Full-time private sector workers, however, are in favor of cutting government worker benefits to help balance state budgets—45 percent support, 37 percent oppose.

The opinion split was nearly identical when the two groups were asked if they would favor taking away some of the collective bargaining rights of most public sector unions. A clear majority of public sector workers opposed curtailing collective bargaining rights while a plurality of private sector employees supported such measures. When all respondents were included, 43 percent of the public opposed reducing collective bargaining rights and 36 percent supported doing so. 

Note about the charts: "Total" includes all survey respondents, "Public Sector" includes respondents working full time in the public sector, "Private Sector" includes respondents working full time in the private sector or self-employed.

The full Reason-Rupe poll (pdf) and the crosstabs (pdf). 

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