Published March 18, 2011
Even as majorities say public employee unions should be allowed to bargain for benefits and pensions, most American voters think these same unions have too much influence over the politicians who ultimately sign off on the unions’ contracts.
A Fox News poll released Friday found 68 percent of voters are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that public employee unions have too much influence over politicians -- the same politicians who, when elected, negotiate the salaries and benefits of union members, such as teachers, police and other workers on the state payroll. Sixteen percent of voters are “not very” and 12 percent are “not at all” concerned the unions are too powerful.
When asked about unions in general (not just public employee unions), by a wide 60-36 percent margin voters think they are still necessary to protect workers.
Democrats overwhelmingly think unions are still necessary (75 percent), as do most independents (65 percent). Over half of Republicans (55 percent) say the opposite -- unions are unnecessary these days. Among voters living in union households, a large 79 percent majority thinks unions are still necessary. A smaller 55 percent majority of those living in non-union households agrees.
Meanwhile, by a slim margin more voters say they would prefer not to be a union member (48 percent) rather than be in a union at their job (43 percent).
More than one voter in five who lives in a union household says they would rather not be in a union (23 percent).
The recent political battles in states like Wisconsin and Ohio have involved public employee unions. Despite concerns over the power those unions have over politicians and elected officials, voters are divided over what lawmakers’ actions in those states are really aiming to accomplish: 44 percent think they are attempts to try to kill the unions, while 38 percent think these are serious attempts to try to fix state budget deficits.
Roughly two-thirds of voters think state public employee unions should be able to bargain for their members’ salaries (69 percent), health care benefits (69 percent) and pensions (68 percent).
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 913 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from March 14 to March 16. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.