Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s uncompromising fight to crush the collective bargaining rights of some public sector unions has, not surprisingly, caused union members in the state to sharply turn against Walker. From Tom Jensen at PPP:
We’ll have our full poll on the Wisconsin conflict out tomorrow but here’s the most interesting finding: if voters in the state could do it over today they’d support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.
The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they’d go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.
While it seems the die has been cast in Wisconsin, with Walker showings no intent on backing down, this poll is very important news for public sector unions elsewhere in the country.
On net, a very high-profile showdown with the unions has significantly hurt Walker politically. It hurt him with union members and gained him nothing with non-union voters. Seeing a rapid decline in poll numbers like this should make other Republican governors much less enthusiastic to follow Walker’s lead in trying to crush the unions. Even if unions lose this battle in Wisconsin, fighting it so doggedly could still really pay off for them elsewhere.
What will be interesting to see is if the political fallout of Walker’s fight with the unions is limited to him and Republican state legislators in Wisconsin, or has national implications. Unions members tend to support Democrats heavily, but not overwhelmingly. In 2008, 61 percent of union members voted for Obama while 38 percent voted for McCain. If Republicans engaging in high profile anti-union fights push that support up to even 71 percent, it could significantly affect the 2012 elections.