Battle over union power has just begun

The dispute in Wisconsin about collective bargaining and union power isn’t “over”; it’s just begun.

The recent fight has cost Republicans support, strengthened unions, polarized the issue, and swung critical independents, who were essential to the Republicans’ 2010 electoral victory, toward sympathizing with the unions.

Indeed, in Wisconsin, Republicans now face a state Supreme Court election in less than two weeks as well as eight legislative recall elections this spring and summer. Defeat would turn over control of both entities to government union supporters. As it stands now, Republicans could not only lose, but lose badly. And if they lose, the political repercussions for other states (like Ohio) that are also taking on government unions are enormous.

Independent Women’s Voice retained The Polling Company to conduct a statewide survey of 400 frequent voters in Wisconsin on March 13-14, followed by an in-depth focus group on March 16 to assess if the traditional red-state messaging being used was backfiring with critical independents in traditionally blue-state Wisconsin, as well as if other messaging approaches had more resonance.

Gov. Walker and others have assured colleagues that support will grow for their efforts as the immediate controversy fades from memory. As Pat Caddell pointed out, that’s eerily reminiscent of predictions made by President Obama and the Democrats about health care reform a year ago. Walker may be right, but the current facts point otherwise for the near term.

An astonishing 95% of the survey respondents described themselves as paying close attention to the issue, 71% saying “very” closely. Respondents strongly identified with one or the other side of the budget conflict, and this identification fell along ideological lines. Independents now largely lock arms with the union members and protestors.

As a result, Gov. Walker is now viewed unfavorably by a 53% majority, and with vehemence: only 3% say “somewhat” unfavorable while 50% say “very.” In contrast, the “Gang of 14,” the 14 Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois, were viewed favorably by a majority of respondents, 51% to 47%, even though a majority thought it was wrong of them to run away. The real winner? Government employee unions in Wisconsin, scoring 55% favorable and only 40% unfavorable.

The numbers about recalling legislators should also worry Republicans. Asked if they support or oppose recalling the Gang of 14 Democratic state senators, 60% overall oppose recalling them, with 38% supporting recall. But when it comes to recalling the Republican state senators who remained in Wisconsin, a much more tepid 52% oppose their recall, while 43% support it.

Turnout is key in any election, but especially in special elections. And unions excel at turnout: While union members constitute only 14% of Wisconsin’s population, in recent elections union households have cast between 26% and 30% of the votes.

Union households support recalling Republicans over Democrats by a 2:1 margin. Additionally, self-described independents now side with the unions and protestors over the governor 54% to 43%, and are overall favorably disposed (62%) to Wisconsin’s government employee unions. And if it came to a recall for Scott Walker, independents favor it 51% to 47%, the near inverse of the population as a whole, who oppose, but only barely, his recall, 50%-49%.

  • Pingback: It looks like Waterloo in Wisconsin for government unions. « Cliftonchadwick's Blog

  • SunnyJ

    Please, we heard this all before…and then Walker and the Repubs cleaned up at the polls…never once did the Independent Women’s Voice let anybody know that wave was coming. Or that Feingold was going out the door. Idea, get out of Madison! There is a great deal more to Wisconsin than the home of the SDS movement. Here’s a poll for you. I teach in healthcare in Wisconsin and do home health…it’s 10 to 1 in favor of Walker as I go in and out of homes all over the area. I use carefully designed open probes, “Oh” or “Tell me” and then just listen. I get an earful about unethical teachers and Drs, police unions that only enforce the laws they like, questions about disrepecting the democracy that looked like a valid election in favor of the democracy that trashes the capitol and empties classrooms. Their TV’s on tuned to Fox News…so don’t wonder why the left and the Obama administration are working overtime to discredit Fox. Conservative voters, independent or GOP’s do not take their business to the street…they vote. For every 1 Tea Partier willing to march there are 10 at home taking care of responsibilities and working. This was true when they were young…in the 60-70’s not everyone went to Woodstock, though the media would like you to think that was all there was going on…many were in service to their country, working, or in school and working to pay their way.

  • Patty Ewing Robichaud

    The unions are using the very tactics they were formed 100 years ago to protect people from. Now, they are the oppressors and big money makers – and union executives are masters of diversion, always pointing and blaming so their members will know who to attack (even if they don’t really know why).

    Wisconsin in particular has had socialist leanings for 100 years – which plays right into the union mindset.

    For more on the history of socialism and unions in Wisconsin, read this piece: http://politicular.com/2011/03/century-unions-wisconsin-history/

    Sadly, nobody will win, because as Margaret Thatcher said, “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

  • Pingback: Politics In 60 Seconds: What You Need To Know Right Now | Wordwide News Exposed

  • MDABE80

    It’s the union way. Unions know they’re now and have been breaking the taxpayer bank. Do they care? Nope. All they care about is the money.
    If anyone like their flavor or extortion, that person will be threatened, attacked and shouted down. They will be accused of everything bad.
    Elections this past year were clear.stop the spending.NOT increase it. Unions and the left didn’t like that message so they will employ strategy and tactics not aimed at an equitable solution. They just want to get more money. Unionism these days is a business. Not about right or wrong or even the country or their state. Just about money. This is the one thing that’ll defet the attempts at financial sovency. They don’t CARE.

  • Pingback: Conservative analyst doubts Wisconsin GOP’s strategy | DAILY WISCONSIN

  • flips

    “The current instinct in Republican and conservative circles is to use partisan, sledgehammer ads and talk to the converted. This is a limited strategy overall, but in an until-recently blue state like Wisconsin, it’s no way to win. There is still a chance to turn this debate around — the question is: Will Republican supporters be willing to use a new playbook.”

    Doesn’t seem like it.

    The traditionally moderate voices in the GOP get shouted down these days.
    They a hiding under their desks.

    • Drahcir

      You forgot to mention that every time a Dem or Ind speaks the room is normal. But have A Rep start to say anything they are Shouted down.I wonder what happened to freedom of speech?As far as your Dems know he could be suggesting a break for Congress,But your Unionbuddies will not allow any thing from the right.