(Peter Roff/U.S. News & World Report) – A poll of Wisconsin voters released Thursday finds more of them support Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed reforms than oppose them.
The poll, conducted by former Bill Clinton political consultant Dick Morris, finds Walker’s reforms–as a package–are backed by 51 percent of the more than 400 likely voters surveyed while 47 percent indicated they were opposed. [See photos from the Wisconsin protests.]
Taken point by point, however, the news is almost all good for Walker, who has become a national political figure virtually overnight thanks to his effort to reform the way the state government works as part of his efforts to balance the budget.
For example, by a margin of 74 percent to 18 percent, likely voters in Wisconsin back the idea of making state employees pay more for their health insurance. By a margin of 79 percent to 16 percent, they favor asking state workers to contribute more toward their pensions. And, by a margin of 66 percent to 30 percent they support the idea that state workers’ pay increase should be tied to the rate of inflation unless voters approve a higher raise by public referendum. [Take the U.S. News poll: Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker right about the unions?]
For the moment, however, the core issue of the fight that has paralyzed the state government and led to protesters occupying the state capitol building–the idea that the power of public employee unions to engage in collective bargaining be limited to wage and benefit issues–Wisconsin voters break with the governor, 54 percent to 41 percent. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]
That, Morris said in a release, means that while “Voters back the principal of collective bargaining,” the survey indicates they might be willing to back Walker’s proposed changes if it would ensure “they would not impede education reforms.” Meaning that if Walker can frame the debate as one that gives school more flexibility, makes it easier to get rid of bad teachers and retain good ones and pay teachers based on merit, the numbers flip, with likely voters backing Walker’s position 58 percent to 38 percent. [Take the U.S. News poll: Are Wisconsin teachers unfair to skip school for protests?]
The poll was conducted by telephone among 409 likely Wisconsin voters and has an error margin of 4 percent.