Politics

Poll: The word ‘rights’ changes the way Americans view collective bargaining

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A new Reason-Rupe poll found that Wisconsinites’ attitudes over limiting collective bargaining in public employee unions hinges on how the question is phrased. The poll asked half of the surveyed sample of Wisconsinites if they “support or oppose reducing collective bargaining rights for public employee unions,” and 52 percent opposed reducing collective bargaining rights. They asked the other half if they “support or oppose limiting collective bargaining for public employee unions,” and 51 percent favored limiting collective bargaining.

The difference is when the word “rights” was included in the question, people tended to oppose curbing collective bargaining. When “rights” was excluded from the question, people tended to favor curbing collective bargaining.

America’s long tradition and history of preserving and protecting individual rights has made it so people are in favor of protecting rights rather than taking them away, according to Emily Ekins, director of polling for the libertarian Reason Foundation.

“It has become common parlance to use the phrase ‘rights,’” Ekins told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “[It’s] likely to gain support because people like rights. I think this goes way back.”

Using the word “rights” to describe collective bargaining activities “presupposes that they are rights to begin with,” she continued. This, she said, means people are less likely to want to curb or reduce them.

Ekins pointed to nine polls done in 2011, seven of which use the word “rights” to describe the collective bargaining activities of public sector unions. Six of the seven showed majorities opposing taking away collective bargaining “rights” — one had a plurality opposed to it.

However, two of the nine polls didn’t use the word “rights” and showed that a plurality of people in both favored limiting collective bargaining.

When the word “rights” is taken out, you can get at what people actually think, Ekins told TheDCNF.

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