Protesters gather outside the statehouse in Indianapolis in February… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)
More Americans back public employee unions than governors seeking to balance strained budgets by demanding givebacks, including a curb on bargaining rights, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
The poll, which showed that 48% agree with public employee unions compared with 39% who back the governors, marks somewhat of a leveling of the political playing field on an issue that the GOP has pushed, most noticeably in the Midwest. The issue has also played well into the overall national Republican posture of being fiscally conservative and pro-business.
The trendsetter has been in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of unionists protested for weeks against a GOP plan to increase fees for pension and health benefits paid by public employees. The proposal, which prompted a boycott by Democratic state senators who fled the state, would also have curbed collective bargaining rights for most public workers, except police and firefighters.
The proposal has been signed into law, but has not gone into effect while challenges are pending in the courts.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich on Thursday signed into law a measure that bans strikes and curbs the collective bargaining rights of unions for teachers, law enforcement and other public employees.
According to Gallup, which surveyed 1,027 people from March 25 to Sunday, almost a majority backs the overall union position, though 13% said they have no opinion or blame both groups. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Not surprisingly, seven in 10 Democrats say they support the unions, a bulwark of the party’s electoral operations. Only Republicans, at 65%, said they solidly support the governors. Most other groupings, including independents, were about evenly divided.
The poll also found that 28% of Americans said they followed the news about the union battles closely and 32% said they followed it somewhat closely. That represents a typical response to a major news story, according to Gallup.