2008 record      


Labor: A standoff between Wisconsin's governor and public employees is billed as a battle for Americans' hearts and minds. On closer look, the real prize may be their pocketbooks.

Like other national surveys, the latest IBD/TIPP poll shows government unions backed by a solid 55% of Americans and opposed by 40%.

But as a graphic on Tuesday's op-ed page revealed, the gap closes to two percentage points (48%-46%) when respondents are reminded that government unions contribute to political campaigns and the unions negotiate members' pay and benefits with the same politicians they help elect.

Gov. Scott Walker is trying to address this inherent conflict of interest in proposing weaker bargaining rights for the unions. And he may be onto something.

An even closer look at the IBD/TIPP results shows that attitudes toward reducing budget deficits also play a big part in how the unions are viewed.

Those who favor increasing taxes to make ends meet at the state level back the unions by a whopping 82% to 15%.

But those who prefer "cutting public employee pay and perks" oppose the unions 50%-44%, and those who opt to "cut services provided by the state and cut the work force" oppose them 50%-47%.

When reminded of the inherent conflict of interest in how labor agreements are negotiated, support of the pro-union respondents slips to a still strong 72%-24%.

But union opposition of those who want to cut public employee pay and perks and reduce services and work force widen to 56%-37% and 57%-39%, respectively.

The patterns held when respondents were asked if they favored the unions or Walker in Wisconsin. Those who back tax increases also backed the unions 82%-13%. Those who prefer cutting pay and services stood with the governor 61%-33% and 57%-38%.

The results of the IBD/TIPP poll that ended Sunday suggest that Walker may yet win the public relations battle if he frames the issue in a way that clearly shows that taxpayers, not unions or politicians, have the most at stake.

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