Mysterious Conservative Poll Of Walker’s Budget Plan Hits Wisconsin

February 24, 2011 1:15 p.m.

A poll purporting to show broad support in Wisconsin for Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) budget proposal made the rounds today, popping up on at least one Wisconsin news site and getting a mention on MSNBC.

“BREAKING: Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker’s Budget Changes are ‘Fair’,” screamed the release from the poll’s sponsor, the conservative-leaning Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, based in Alexandria, VA. More on all that from TPM’s Eric Lach here.

The poll was quickly picked up, making an appearance on the news site and getting a shoutout on MSNBC dayside.

There’s only one problem: the poll actually shows more Wisconsin voters are on the side of the pro-union protesters and their Democratic allies than back Walker and the Republicans.The poll of 500 likely voters in Wisconsin was conducted on Monday by Pulse Opinion Research, the custom polling arm of Rasmussen. Pulse polls are made to order, but screen their respondents using Rasmussen’s proprietary and oft-criticized likely voter screen.

A previous Rasmussen poll of the Wisconsin situation conducted nationally showed 48% of American voters supported Walker, while just 38% supported the unions. That poll was criticized for asking leading questions that seemed to point respondents toward opposing the unions.

Rasmussen referred questions about the Wisconsin poll to its sponsors — the Franklin Center and Wisconsin Reporter. Update: Rasmussen spokesperson Debra Falk sends over this comment:

Your reference to Pulse Opinion Research being an “arm of Rasmussen Reports” is incorrect. While Pulse does license methodology from Scott Rasmussen, they are two separate companies, run independently and not as divisions of each other as your article suggests. Which is why I referred you directly to Pulse’s client for comment on the poll; I have no idea what they do or for whom. Rasmussen is a client of Pulse, as they do the fieldwork for Rasmussen Reports surveys.

Both Pulse and Rasmussen Reports are owned by Scott Rasmussen. More on the connection between two firms here.

The questions on the Pulse Poll are different than those found on the Rasmussen national poll, and they’re aimed squarely at Wisconsin voters. And despite what the poll’s sponsors wanted to advertise initially, the results actually look pretty good for the unions.

More than half (56%) of respondents said Wisconsin state workers should have collective bargaining power. Just 32% sided with Walker and said state workers should not be allowed to collectively negotiate benefits and other compensation.

The respondents to the poll were evenly split on whether the Democratic Senators who fled Wisconsin to shut down Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill should be recalled. Forty-eight percent said they would not be likely to support a recall of those Democrats and 47% said they would support a recall.

What’s more, a huge majority opposed firing the hundreds of teachers who walked off the job last week, shutting down schools for several days.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said the teachers should not be fired. Just 32% said they should.

The poll was so positive for the union side, in fact, that the AFL-CIO blasted out Dave Weigel’s reporting on it to reporters tonight.

But over at the Franklin Center — and its local news site, — there’s no mention of the strong support for collective bargaining. Instead, the headline is “New poll: Wisconsinites split on Walker’s budget proposal.”

There wasn’t any mention of the positive union numbers, or details on the poll’s right-leaning sponsor, when it popped up on MSNBC.

“Governor Scott Walker is trying, he says, to plug a $6 billion budget this way,” anchor Tamron Hall said this afternoon. “Meanwhile, a new poll from, shows 72% of folks in Wisconsin think the governor’s budget plan is fair.”

Watch the moment:

And read the entire poll, released by the Franklin Center on Thursday:

WisconsinSurvey of 500 Likely Voters
Conducted February 21, 2011

1* Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable opinion of the budget repair bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker?

39% Very favorable
11% Somewhat favorable
14% Somewhat unfavorable
36% Very unfavorable
0% Not sure

2* Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable impression of the union workers and their supporters demonstrating at the Wisconsin Capitol?

36% Very favorable
13% Somewhat favorable
18% Somewhat unfavorable
30% Very unfavorable
3% Not sure

3* Next, Wisconsin faces an estimated budget deficit of about $3.6 billion over the next two years … Which approach would you choose for dealing with the state’s budget shortfall … rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases … rely mainly on spending cuts, with some tax increases … have an even balance of spending cuts and tax increases … rely mainly on tax increases, with some spending cuts … or rely entirely on tax increases, with no spending cuts?

30% Rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases
27% Rely mainly on spending cuts, with some tax increases
33% Have an even balance of spending cuts and tax increases
7% Rely mainly on tax increases, with some spending cuts
2% Rely entirely on tax increases, with no spending cuts
1% Not sure
4* Governor Walker is asking unions to pay 5.8% of their salary toward the cost of their pensions plans and double their contributions for health care premiums to 12.6%. Is that fair?

71% Yes
22% No
7% Not sure

5* How likely is it that you would support the recall of state senators who left the state to avoid a vote on the budget?

37% Very likely
10% Somewhat likely
12% Not very likely
36% Not at all likely
5% Not sure

6* Generally speaking, are government workers in your community better compensated than private sector workers?

48% Yes
29% No
23% Not sure

7* Generally speaking, do government workers in your community have better benefits than private sector workers?

69% Yes
14% No
17% Not sure

8* Should school districts fire teachers who call in sick to protest Governor Walker?

32% Yes
53% No
15% Not sure

9* Should Wisconsin’s state employees and public employee unions have collective bargaining powers?

56% Yes
32% No
12% Not sure

10* Given these choices, which approach would you take for dealing with a school district budget shortfall … reduce teacher pensions and salaries or cut sports and extra-curricular programs for students?

44% Reduce teacher pensions and salaries
34% Cut sports and extra-curricular programs for students
22% Not sure

11* Who do you think is doing the best job at tackling spending and budgets issues — state officials such as Gov. Walker or lawmakers in Washington?

46% State officials such as Gov. Walker
33% Lawmakers in Washington
21% Not sure

12* Do you believe that President Obama should get involved in state disputes like the one in Wisconsin or focus his efforts on the federal budget battle in Washington?

27% Obama should get involved in state disputes
68% Obama should focus his efforts on the federal budget
5% Not sure

13* Is anyone in your household a member of a state public employee union?

23% Yes
75% No
2% Not sure

14* In the November 2010 election for Governor, did you vote for Tom Barrett or Scott Walker?

45% Barrett
46% Walker
8% Some other candidate
1% Not sure

15* Should Wisconsin residents be allowed to carry a concealed weapon?

45% Yes
45% No
10% Not sure

16* Should Wisconsin residents be required to present a photo ID in order to vote?

68% Yes
27% No
6% Not sure

Eric Kleefeld contributed.

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