Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I was heartened by the new Public Policy Polling survey of Wisconsin, but only up to a point:

...if voters in the state could do it over today they'd support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.

The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they'd go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November....

People invoke Martin Niemoller in situations that don't involve the risk of genocide for good reasons: even when we're not dealing with a Hitler, power frequently takes advantage of lack of solidarity between people who should be natural allies. This Wisconsin poll struck me as really Niemollerian: Scott Walker is coming for the trasde unionists and, well, now the trade unionists get it, but there's no real shift in attitudes among the rest of the Wisconsin public.

There does seem to be a real shift, however, in the new New York Times/CBS poll:

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll....

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines....

Right-wingers who look at Scott Walker and see the ghost of Ronald Reagan have failed to reckon with one obvious shift in public perception:

At the time of the PATCO strike, 60% of Americans thought unions had too much influence; now it's 37%.

That's still higher than objective reality would suggest it should be, but it's a huge shift. Still, Americans are basically living in the real 2011. For Republicans, it's always 1981.

Of course, other polls get different results -- Chris Christie goes after public sector unions without trying to fully strip them of bargaining rights and, according to Quinnipiac, wins support in New Jersey. So maybe Scott Walker has taken it too far. And maybe Jersey is different -- it is the second-richest state in America, and the new Times poll says the wealthy are the most likely to support putting the screws to public employees. Maybe, in a country that's not so wealthy, the public is finally souring on that approach.

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