Americans split on government shutdown: poll

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 2, 2011 2:28pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Americans are split nearly evenly on whether a federal government shutdown resulting from a possible budget stalemate would be a good or bad thing, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University survey of nearly 2,000 registered voters found 46 percent said a government shutdown would be a good thing versus 44 percent who said that it would be bad.

The was within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

On Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to extend government funding for two more weeks, averting a federal shutdown in the short term, but doing nothing to resolve a bitter debate over the federal budget.

Budgets are also causing controversies at the state level, where efforts to slash deficits are being cited as a rationale for cutting state worker benefits and reducing public employee union bargaining power.

The Quinnipiac poll found 42 percent of those surveyed thought government workers were paid too much, 15 percent thought they earned too little, and 35 percent said pay was about right.

The split was closer on the issue of whether collective bargaining rights for public employees should be limited, with 45 percent saying yes and 42 percent no, although by 63 to 31 percent those surveyed thought government workers should pay more for benefits and retirement programs.

"There is a partisan tinge to American voter attitudes toward government workers," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Republicans tend to say state workers are overpaid and want to limit collective bargaining whereas Democrats, at the rate of two-to-one, said government employees are paid about right or too little and defend collective bargaining, Brown said.

Independent voters were in the middle.

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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