Reason-Rupe Poll Finds Support for Public Union Reforms


Despite controversy over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walkers' efforts to reform public employee unions, the latest Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults, on both landline and cell phones, finds considerable support for many of the law's key provisions.

Walkers' proposal, which was later passed into law last summer, significantly changed the laws regarding public employee unions in Wisconsin. The law altered the way state officials and union leaders negotiate contracts and compensation and also what public employees will contribute toward their retirement benefits and health care.

72 percent of Wisconsinites favor "increasing the amount that government employees contribute to their own pensions from less than 1 percent to 6 percent of their annual salaries," 24 percent oppose.

71 percent favor "increasing the amount that government employees contribute to their own health care from 6 percent to 12 percent of the cost of their health care," 27 percent oppose.

50 percent favor "ending automatic union dues deductions from government employee paychecks," 41 percent oppose.

However, other provisions in the law received less support. 47 percent favor and 46 percent oppose "limiting government employee collective bargaining to just negotiating wages, and excluding bargaining on benefits, working conditions, pensions, and rules." This provision in the law effectively limited collective bargaining of public employee unions, and the public has not yet reached a consensus on this provision in the law.

Wisconsinites oppose a provision in the law that exempted police and firefighters from law changes by a margin of 57 percent to 38 percent.

In sum, these results show that Wisconsin voters favor particular provisions in the law more strongly than they oppose them. This may explain why Governor Scott Walker leads Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett 50-42 among likely voters in the upcoming recall election.

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.