MADISON, Wisc. A majority of Wisconsin voters think Gov. Scott Walker's bid to make public sector union members pay more for benefits is fair but also believe those workers should have collective bargaining rights, according to a poll released on Thursday.
Wisconsin voters are split evenly in their views of Republican Walker's proposal and of the protesters demonstrating against his plans, said the poll sponsored by WisconsinReporter.com, a news organization operated by the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Half of the 500 people polled had a favorable view of Walker's proposal, and half had an unfavorable view, it found.
Walker said his plan asking state unionized workers to contribute more toward pensions and health insurance is necessary to close a budget deficit of about $3 billion over the next several years.
He says the proposal to strip public sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights is warranted so that local municipalities can balance their budgets.
As to the thousands of protesters demonstrating in the state capital, 49 percent of those polled had a favorable view, and 48 percent had an unfavorable view, it said.
The February 21 poll among 500 likely Wisconsin voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. Roughly one in four said someone in their household was a member of a state public employee union.
Asked about the proposal for the public sector workers to contribute more toward benefits, 71 percent said it was fair.
A smaller majority of 56 percent said the public employee unions should have collective bargaining powers, while 32 percent disagreed and 12 percent were not sure, it found.
The voters were evenly split as well on recalling the 14 state Democratic senators who left the state to deny the Senate a quorum needed to consider Walker's proposal. The poll found 47 percent were likely to support a recall, 48 percent were not likely to do so and the rest were unsure.
A majority of 69 percent said they think government workers have better benefits than do private sector workers.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Greg McCune)