Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has become an instant conservative darling and national figure with his standoff against his state’s public worker unions. But a new poll suggests his no-compromise, union-busting approach is not playing well in the historically progressive state.
Walker is pushing a bill which would cut public union benefits and take away virtually all of the unions’ collective bargaining rights. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a respected Democratic polling firm released a polling memo Sunday showing that Walker’s approval rating is under water with likely voters, with 51 percent disapproving. And specifically regarding the Madison showdown, Walker is the least popular figure among those surveyed, with 43 percent of likely voters agreeing with his stance and 53 percent disagreeing; contrast that with state GOP lawmakers (48-46 agree), state Democratic lawmakers (56-39), Unions (59-37), the protesters (62-31), and public employees (67-24). [See a roundup of the month's best political cartoons.]
This might be related to the public unions calling Walker’s budget bluff. The governor has tried to frame his proposal as being budget-focused, that concessions are required from the public workers because of the state’s fiscal emergency (never mind, as my bloleague Anson Kaye pointed out yesterday, that it is an emergency of his own creation). But when the unions offered to meet his financial demands in exchange for keeping their collective bargaining rights (or as Walker seems to view them, “collective bargaining privileges”), he said that wasn’t good enough--they had to concede everything. [See editorial cartoons about the federal budget and deficit.]
But the new poll shows that stance is wildly unpopular: Independent voters think state workers should be able to keep their collective bargaining rights if they agree to the cuts Walker wants, by a margin of 76-19; even Republicans are closely split, with 49 percent thinking the workers should keep their rights and 47 percent agreeing with Walker’s hard line (that’s within the poll’s +/-4 percent margin of error). Democrats--no surprise--side the workers keeping their rights by a 94-1 margin.
Perhaps trying to press their advantage, national labor groups have taken to the airwaves in the state with a new television ad featuring a Wisconsin firefighter. It’s a clever gambit because firefighters and other first responders (who, quel supris, tend to lean more Republican) are exempted from Walker’s proposal.