Another Poll Brings Bad News for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

The hits keep on coming.

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The bad news keeps on coming for Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The results of poll after poll show that his union-busting overreach has backfired in Wisconsin (and that it’s not popular nationally either).

[See photos of the Wisconsin protests.]

The Wisconsin Public Research Institute released a poll over the weekend which showed that 51 percent of Wisconsites somewhat or strongly oppose Walker’s plan to roll back collective bargaining rights and cut public workers’ compensation. More striking is the intensity of the opposition Walker and his plan inspire.

It’s not just that 51 percent oppose the plan, but 42 percent oppose it strongly (9 percent somewhat oppose). And asked if they strongly or somewhat approve or disapprove of Walker’s job performance as governor a remarkable 45 percent strongly disapprove, with another 8 percent somewhat disapproving. His strong approval was 29 percent and his somewhat approve figure is 14 percent.

Another question asks whether Walker should “stand strong” for his plan or should find a way to compromise with the state Democrats and public worker unions. Fully 65 percent favor compromise while 33 percent opt for the “stand strong” position.

According to Ken Goldstein, the University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor who conducted the poll (the Wisconsin Public Research Institute leans right, but Goldstein is, I think, nonpartisan):

Not surprisingly, this is driven largely by partisan dynamics.  About 77 percent of Republicans think the governor should stand strong and 94 percent of Democrats want a compromise.  The key here is independents.  Independents overwhelmingly want the governor to compromise with 68 percent believing he should do so and 29 percent thinking he should stand strong.

Generally speaking it’s a bad thing in politics when independents line up against you by a 68-29 margin. Walker’s got a chance to bend to the will of his constituents, as the 14 state senate Democrats who have fled to Illinois in order to stop Walker’s plan have offered to meet with Walker or his negotiator at the Illinois-Wisconsin state line to talk through an end-game to the stand-off. [ See editorial cartoons about the GOP.]

But will Walker? The Wisconsin Public Research Institute poll is the latest in a litany that has (with one or two exceptions) sent the same message regarding his plan, both on state and national levels. Last week Rasmussen, whose results are generally kinder to GOPers than other independent pollsters, found that 57 percent of Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker, 48 percent strongly and that 56 percent of independent voters disapprove of him. And nationally an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that 62 percent found unacceptable the idea of stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights. [ Read the U.S. News debate: Should public sector workers have collective bargaining rights?]

So again—will Walker accede to voters’ wishes? It may be that he figures his polls have already taken the hit for making his proposal so he might as well have a victory to show for it rather than both suffer the poll damage and be seen as having lost.

As of today it looks like Walker is trying to portray himself as reasonable and the Democratic state senate leader as being unreasonable and unwilling to negotiate. The question is whether public opinion can be swayed at this point--Walker needs the Democrats to dramatically overplay their hand.