Moreover, the polling results belie Governor Walker and his lieutenant’s claims that they have the backing of most of the state’s residents. The survey asked: “If state workers agree to pay more for healthcare and retirement as the Governor has asked, do you think they should also have their collective bargaining rights taken away?” Just 21 percent said of respondents said yes, while 74 percent said no. Walker has said he’s not prepared to cut a deal to preserve collective bargaining. The complete polling information can be accessed at: “Tracking Voter Sentiment in Wisconsin Majorities Oppose Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Worker and Union Agenda.” When you break down the respondents by political affiliation it is only Republicans who continue to back Governor Walker. According to Talking Points Memo: “Reaction to the specifics of Walker’s Proposals includes overwhelming opposition from Democrats, majority support from Republicans and sizable opposition from independents. Walker has a 10% net disapproval — 39% approve, 49% disapprove.”
These numbers stand in stark contrast to Walker’s pre-election favorablility ratings as per Rasmussen: “The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters finds the Republican candidate with 52% of the vote, while Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, picks up 42% support.” But oddly enough, Walker’s favorability ratings had already started to slump, even before he was sworn in as Governor according to Wisconsin political analyst Craig Gilbert. To wit: “Public Policy Polling has collected popularity ratings on Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and six other newly elected GOP governors since the 2010 election, and Walker does not compare favorably to his peers on that list…In the firm’s Wisconsin survey taken Dec. 10-12, Walker was viewed favorably by 41% of registered voters but unfavorably by 49%. That’s worse than Ohio’s John Kasich (36% favorable/40% unfavorable) and far worse than Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett (39%/27%); Michigan’s Rick Snyder (48%/26%); Wyoming’s Matt Mead (53%/17%); and Nevada’s Brian Sandoval (57%/20%). The only new GOP governor of the seven who did worse than Walker was Florida’s Rick Scott (33%/43%).
So what then can we point to as being the cause of Scott Walker’s plummeting poll numbers? Well for one thing, the Wisconsin electorate is not nearly as conservative as many would suppose. According to the Milwaukee Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert: “A big factor is that the 2010 Wisconsin electorate was an unusually conservative one, featuring a partisan turnout gap that favored Republicans. By contrast, the post-election poll cited above surveyed registered voters who had voted in any of the major elections in the state between 2004 and 2008. Any sample drawn from that population is likely to be less conservative than the 2010 electorate.” Beyond the demographics of the Wisconsin electorate is the fact that Walker may have overreached in his attack on the state’s public unions as the polling results above suggest. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, appearing on today’s Hardball with Chris Matthews said that Walker had run on a platform of reigning in runaway spending braodly and the specific aspect of his attack on the unions in those areas outside of wages, pensions and health care contributions were never articulated during the campaign and thus represent something that the people hadn’t voted on. Scott Walker’s baltant attack on the institution of public sector unions may represent his “bridge to far” and could in fact turn out to be the biggest mistake of his political career and that’s a less than spectacular start for the new Govenor. Can he recover from this apparent pratfall? That’s unknowable at this point and only time will tell.
Steven J. Gulitti