What You Can Learn About Wisconsin Dispute from Differences in Poll Questions
In recent national polling about the situation in Wisconsin, Rasmussen Reports and Quinnipiac found a slight plurality in favor of Governor Scott Walker and his efforts, the Pew Center found a plurality opposed, and Gallup and the New York Times reported strong opposition...
Quinnipiac found a 45% to 42% national plurality in favor of the governor by asking, “In order to reduce state budget deficits, would you support or oppose limiting collective bargaining for public employees?” On the other hand, Pew found a 42% to 31% national plurality opposed to the governor by asking, “From what you’ve read and heard about the dispute between Wisconsin’s governor and public employee unions over collective bargaining rights, do you side more with the governor or the public employee unions?”
Quinnipiac put the collective bargaining rights dispute in context as a potential way to reduce the state budget deficit. Pew described the entire issue as a collective bargaining dispute and never mentioned the state budget deficit. When the deficit is mentioned, the governor does much better; when it’s all about limiting collective bargaining rights, the unions do better.
This distinction was mirrored in a Rasmussen Reports statewide survey that found support for statewide budget cuts but not for weakening collective bargaining rights. A national Rasmussen Reports survey didn’t mention what the dispute was about and asked, “In the dispute between the governor and the union workers, do you agree more with the governor or the union for teachers and other state employees?” In that case, Walker most recently was favored 47% to 42%.
Nationally, the New York Times did not ask who people supported but found 60% opposition to “taking away some of the collective bargaining rights of the unions.” Gallup asked a similar question and found 61% opposed.
But both the New York Times and Quinnipiac found that nationally a plurality thought the debate was more about budget issues than about weakening unions. That’s one reason polls asking only about collective bargaining rights show better results for the unions. If the focus is on budget cutting, as it is for a plurality of adults nationwide, the results look better for the governor...