Walker facing strong headwinds in latest poll

Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing.  The polls in Wisconsin have consistently shown that voters want an end to the standoff in Madison over the budget-repair bill, and appear to be blaming Governor Scott Walker for the impasse.  Almost two-thirds want Walker to negotiate with the Democrats who fled the state and hijacked the legislative process.  On the other hand, Wisconsin voters want lower taxes and spending cuts rather than higher taxes and the current level of spending, too:

In the WPRI survey from mid-November, 45% of Wisconsinites viewed Walker favorably and 35% viewed him unfavorably.

Today, about the same share – 43% – view him favorably, but the share of people who view him unfavorably has jumped 18 points to 53%.

The poll also illustrates how feelings about Walker have intensified among both supporters and opponents. Even though Walker’s overall favorability has gone down slightly from 45% to 43%, the percentage of people who strongly support him – who view him “very favorably” – has gone up from 21% to 28%. The percentage of people who strongly oppose him – who view him “very unfavorably” – has more than doubled from 19% to 41%.

Walker has lost significant ground with independents in the state, as Rasmussen also indicated earlier in the week.  A 57% majority disapproves of Walker’s performance, and 59% of independents have a negative view of the governor.  However, 23% of independents said that the top priority of the state government should be to balance the budget, another 13% said holding the line on taxes and spending, and another 20% said economic improvement should be the highest priority, with only 5.8% saying negotiating/bargaining was the highest priority and 7.9% for protecting collective bargaining “rights.”

It seems that Wisconsin voters (especially independents) want government to focus on the right priorities, but not disagree too much over them.  Walker gets the blame for drawing a line in the sand.

That said, the WPRI analysis shows that voters have not been sold on the budget-repair bill’s union reforms, either:

Walker has proposed limiting collective bargaining to wages. Exactly half of the respondents (50 percent) say that public employees are willing to compromise on pensions and benefits but limiting bargaining rights does nothing to balance the state’s budget situation and is really just an attempt to get rid of public employee unions. Forty-three percent say the proposed changes are a necessary reform because they will give local governments greater flexibility to control their budgets over several years.

There is real opposition to Governor Walker’s proposal to restrict the collective bargaining rights of workers, but the intensity depends on how the question is worded.  When the issue is framed as limiting bargaining rights to help local governments, 47 percent are in favor and 50 percent are opposed.  When the issue is framed as eliminating bargaining rights to ultimately dismantle public employee unions, then the public overwhelmingly disapproves, with 32 in favor and 58 percent opposed.

The problems with the WEA Trust have apparently not gotten as much attention as needed in the last couple of weeks.  That may explain this finding as well:

In the most recent poll, almost six out of ten respondents (59 percent) had a somewhat or strongly favorable opinion of public employee unions. Thirty-four percent had a somewhat or strongly unfavorable opinion.

WPRI has the survey’s full crosstabs available.  The sample seems a little off, with a D/R/I of 28.1/23.7/29.1, and 19% either confused about the three choices or refusing to answer.  The exit polls from the Wisconsin Senate race in 2010 had a D/R/I of 37/36/28, which suggests that both Republicans and Democrats got undersampled, but Republicans significantly more.  That wouldn’t be enough to overcome the difference in support for the unions or the demand that Walker negotiate with the fleebaggers to get them back to the state capital.  Furthermore, this poll largely agrees with the Rasmussen poll and other surveys taken in Wisconsin.

Walker doesn’t seem inclined to talk while Democrats refuse to engage in the legislature.  These kind of poll numbers might push Republicans in the Senate towards a settlement if they continue in this direction.

Update: Charlie Sykes thinks there is more good news in this poll than one might otherwise conclude.  Be sure to read his analysis.