The Public Doesn’t Hate Public Workers

As Josh Marshall noted recently, one of the assumptions in the media discussion about Wisconsin is that Republican politicians are playing on public outrage over the perks given to public workers. That assumption took a hit after a new Gallup Poll, reported on the front page of USA Today, found this:

Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA Today/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61 percent would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33 percent who would favor such a law.

But another interesting finding from the Gallup Poll hasn’t received much attention. They asked this:

As you may know, many U.S. state governments are facing large budget deficits this year. Please say whether you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose each of the following ways state officials could reduce their budget deficits. How about reducing pay or benefits the state provides for government workers?

One might assume that the public would support government workers taking a pay/benefit cut. But the findings are surprising: 44 percent favor or strongly favor such reductions; 53 percent oppose/strongly oppose.

Back to Marshall’s point–this finding makes the prevailing media assumptions appear even weaker. On Sunday in the Washington Post, Dan Balz wrote this:

Given the precarious condition of state budgets, there is some public support for reducing pension and health benefits for public employees. Favorability ratings for unions are at a historical low, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. And the public is divided over whether it supports unions or state governments in such disputes, though tipping slightly to the unions.

In fact, if the Gallup Poll is any indication, the public hasn’t decided to save money by cutting public workers’ pay.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.