WSJ poll: 62% oppose eliminating collective bargaining rights on benefits for public employees

People are buzzing about it so I’m giving you the link now, but the crosstabs and a fuller analysis won’t be available until 6:30 p.m. ET. If any “quirks” show up in the sample like they did with the NYT poll, we’ll revisit this again later.

For now, though, bad news with a little good mixed in:

Eliminating collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits would be either “mostly unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable,” 62% of those surveyed said. Only 33% support such limits…

The poll shows 68% of the respondents would like public employees to contribute more for their retirement benefits and 63% want these workers to pay more for their health care. Only 29% and 34% find these moves either “mostly” or “totally unacceptable.” A clear majority, 58%, also find it acceptable to freeze government workers’ salaries as governments get a handle on spending, whereas 40% think that would be unacceptable.

Similarly, 77% of the 1,000 adults interviewed for the poll think unionized state and municipal employees should have the same rights as those union members who work for private companies.

Cuts are widely favored but once you start talking about “rights” — even though, in the case of collective bargaining, they’re not really rights — people get nervous. In theory, that’s something that can be finessed by better GOP talking points, i.e. start referring to collective bargaining “privileges,” explain why we need a long-term fix to the PEU/Democratic racket, and hammer the point made today by Haley Barbour about how The One, in his majesty, hasn’t pushed to honor these alleged “rights” for federal workers. Realistically, though, you’re trying to undo decades of labor rhetoric that’s penetrated the public consciousness in just a few months. And Scott Walker, for all his smarts and political courage, hasn’t done the sort of sustained public campaign around Wisconsin to build support on his pet issue the way Christie has in New Jersey. Which is not to suggest that he shouldn’t proceed on the collective bargaining bill: As Kaus said yesterday, “He has the votes and can pass the bill whatever the polls say–just as Obama had the votes on his health care bill despite poll-measured popular disquiet.” Indeed. But we all know how that turned out for The One in November. I’m not sure why there’s so much resistance to these polls suggesting that Walker might, might face a backlash of his own. Some backlashes are worth it; that was the Democrats’ calculation on ObamaCare and it’ll have to be the GOP’s calculation on entitlement reform. And I’d bet that Walker, to his great credit, is fully prepared to accept it — so long as he thinks the next Democratic governor and legislature won’t undo his work immediately.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023