Rasmussen Poll: Half of Wis. Voters Want Say on Public Pensions That Increase Govt Cost

Wednesday, 09 Mar 2011 12:32 PM

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Almost half of Wisconsin voters want voters to have the right to approve or reject new pension plans agreements between government officials and union members if those pacts will lead to increased government spending. They are evenly divided as to whether approval should be required for public employee pay raises that push spending higher.

If public employee unions and elected state officials agree to a contract with increased pension benefits that would increase government spending, 48 percent of likely Wisconsin voters think that contract should require voter approval before it can be implemented, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey. Just under 40 percent disagree, and 14 percent are not sure, according to Rasmussen, which surveyed 500 Wisconsin voters on March 7.

When the topic moves away from pension benefits, there is less support for requiring voter approval of contracts in which raises would increase government spending. On that type of contract, 40 percent believe voter approval should be required, while 41 percent disagree and 19 percent are undecided.

This difference may be explained partially by national polling showing that 71 percent of voters believe government employees receive better pension benefits than private sector workers. But only 36 percent think the average public employee in their state earns more than the average private sector worker.

Data released Tuesday shows that Wisconsin voters remain generally opposed to weakening collective-bargaining rights, according to Rasmussen. However, most voters in the state support specific changes in collective-bargaining arrangements such as preventing local unions from requiring a school district to buy health insurance from a union-created insurance company.

This dynamic is similar to polling on government spending topics, Rasmussen noted. Voters overwhelmingly oppose general cuts in popular areas such as infrastructure projects. At the same time, they support more specific cuts such as eliminating Amtrak subsidies and oppose new spending plans for a high speed rail system. In those polls on government spending, the difference is explained by looking at those who oppose spending cuts in general and finding that many are willing to embrace specific cuts.

In the Wisconsin case, the difference is explained by looking at those who are generally opposed to weakening collective bargaining rights. One-third of those voters support the idea of requiring voter approval for union contracts with pension benefit increases.

It’s also worth noting that 36 percent of households with a public employee union member support the idea of requiring voter approval for such contracts. Just over half oppose the requirement for voter approval.


On an income basis, support for requiring voter approval for pension benefit increases is higher among middle and lower income Wisconsin voters. Opposition to the voter approval requirement is higher among those who make more than $75,000 a year.


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