Majority Of Americans Back Public Employee Union Rights And Benefits

More Americans would rather raise taxes than reduce state employee benefits to close a budget shortfall, according to a new New York Times/CBS poll.

That’s just one of several staunchly pro-union sentiments contained in the poll, which comes as governors in several cash-strapped states — most notably Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) — are facing off against public employee unions in battles over benefits and bargaining rights in attempts to reduce state spending. It’s also the latest in a mounting pile of polls to show Americans siding firmly with unions, as similar budget battle lines continue to be drawn in states like Ohio, Tennessee, and elsewhere.

The poll also found that a large majority of Americans are opposed to rolling back collective bargaining rights for public employee unions. Gutting collective bargaining is the most contentious proposal advocated by Gov. Walker, and the one which sent Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state to temporarily block the legislation from advancing.

In the poll, fully six in ten Americans said they opposed cutting state workers’ collective bargaining rights – of those, 38% strongly opposed the idea. Only one third said they supported cutting those rights.

That’s almost identical to the results of a Gallup poll released last week which found 61% would oppose similar efforts to cut collective bargaining rights for public employee unions in their own states.

Further, in a stark sign of how unpopular cuts to state worker’s benefits are, only 22% of Americans said they’d be willing to go that route to reduce their state’s budget deficit, while nearly twice as many people, 40%, said they would rather raise taxes. The only options for deficit shrinking that garnered less support were cutting funding for roads (20%) and decreasing education spending (3%).

While that question dealt in hypothetical terms, Americans also sided with unions when asked specifically if they would support cuts to public employees’ benefits in order to close a state’s budget deficit. A majority of 56% said they would oppose those benefit cuts, while 37% said they would support such a move.

Also striking, while 45% said that they perceived cuts to public employees’ benefits as well-intentioned moves to reduce spending, almost as many, 41%, said they believed those cuts were mostly about weakening the power of unions.

Several statewide surveys have shown Wisconsinites opposed to Walker’s proposals — including some conducted by conservative pollsters. And in a PPP poll released Monday, Wisconsin voters said they would not elect Gov. Walker in a hypothetical do-over of last November’s election, in which Walker defeated Democrat Tom Barrett.

The New York Times/CBS poll was conducted February 24-27 among 984 adults nationwide. It has a margin of error of 3.0%.