A plurality of Americans is taking the side of public-employee unions in the fight over collective bargaining policies, according to a new Gallup poll out today, as more states enact or consider enacting legislation that they say will help close significant budget shortfalls.
Nearly half of Americans - 48 percent -- agree more with "state-employee unions" in "disputes over collective bargaining policies and the state's budget" occurring in Wisconsin and other states, according to the poll. Just 39 percent agree more with the governors in these disputes. Four percent said they agree with neither governors nor state-employee unions, and nine percent were undecided.
But among the 28 percent of Americans who said they were following the issue "very closely," support for unions and the governors is virtually split.
The poll results break largely along partisan lines. A majority of Republicans, 65 percent, agree with the governors -- while only a quarter agree with the unions. Democrats are also united, with 70 percent agreeing with unions, to just 19 percent siding with governors. Among independents, unions have a slight edge, 45 percent to 40 percent -- within the margin of error.
Men are split evenly on the issue. But women side heavily with the state-employee unions over the governors, 50 percent to 33 percent.
The poll comes as the fight over collective bargaining for public employees expands to other states. Ohio Gov. John Kasich
(R) signed a bill Thursday night
that removes health care and other benefits from collective bargaining and introduces a merit-based pay system for public employees. A budget bill passed the New Hampshire state House Wednesday
that would allow government employers to set wages and benefits for their employees without bargaining with the unions that have represented those workers. Indiana, Maine and other states have also grappled with the issue this year.
And as the fight has expanded beyond Wisconsin, Americans have been taking notice. In a new Pew Research Center "Political Knowledge" survey
released Thursday, 63 percent of Americans correctly identified "the main focus of recent protests and political debates in Wisconsin" as concerning "union rights for public employees." Republicans (70 percent) are actually slightly more likely to be familiar with the issue than Democrats (58 percent) in the Pew poll.
Gallup finds that union households are following the issue more closely than non-union households, with 76 percent of union households saying they were following the issue "very" or "somewhat" closely; 58 percent of non-union households say the same.
The Gallup poll surveyed 1,027 adults from March 25-27, for a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. Notably, the Gallup poll did not use the phrase "collective bargaining rights," which they did in a Feb. poll
; Republican pollster Adam Geller claimed
that "rights" was a "loaded" term. A March Quinnipiac poll
found that voters were slightly more likely to favor the unions' argument
when the word "rights" was added to questions about collective bargaining.