Dick Morris, who was President Clinton’s pollster for 20 years, and has done polling for 30 Senators and Governors and 14 presidents or prime ministers in foreign countries, has just released polling data examining Wisconsin voter attitudes towards public sector unions and public sector employee compensation in that state.

His findings underscore what appears to be an interesting fact about Wisconsin voters – they clearly understand the necessity to reduce financially unsustainable, over-market compensation packages to public employees, but they don’t conclude the root cause of these out of control compensation packages is the unionization of Wisconsin’s state and local government workers.

With respect to compensation, Morris has compiled unambiguous findings:

  • By 74-18, Wisconsin voters back making state employees pay more for their health insurance.
  • By 79-16, they support asking state workers contribute more toward their pensions.
  • By 66-30, they back limiting state workers’ pay increases to the rate of inflation unless voters approve a higher raise by a public referendum.

That is, by margins of 3-1 if not 4-1, Wisconsin voters realize their state and local government workers are over-compensated, and support efforts to correct this problem.

The poll conducted earlier this week by Morris went on to reveal some interesting contradictions in Wisconsin’s voter sentiment. As he puts it:

“On the issue of limiting collective bargaining to wage and benefit issues, however, they break with the Governor, opposing the proposal by 41-54. If the issues to be taken off the bargaining table are related to giving schools flexibility to modify tenure, pay teachers based on merit, discharge bad teachers and promote good ones, however,  they support such limits on collective bargaining by 58-38.”

Unless the reason Wisconsin voters opposed – 41-54 – the proposal “limiting collective bargaining to wage and benefit issues” because they wanted to limit collective bargaining altogether and didn’t feel the proposed restriction went far enough, this contradiction between Wisconsin voter awareness of financially unsustainable compensation and their lack of awareness that unionization of government workers is the reason their taxes support financially unsustainable compensation represents an opportunity. Because voters will eventually connect the dots.

The fact that the poll indicates Wisconsin voters already support – 58-38 – eliminating the right to collective bargain over “flexibility to modify tenure, pay teachers based on merit, discharge bad teachers and promote good ones,” is also encouraging, because it shows they already understand that union meddling in state and local employment practices is problematic.

The entire nation is watching to see what happens in Wisconsin. Will Wisconsin voters realize that the occupation of their capitol building by union protesters is not just spontaneous civil disobedience, but a carefully orchestrated, massively financed effort? Will they realize that public sector unions from throughout the United States are prepared to spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars on ground operations and media campaigns to assure the outcome they desire? Will they realize that this is money collected by unions directly from taxpayers, whenever these unions force government workers to join as a condition of employment, and then force them to have money deducted from their taxpayer-funded paychecks to pay for these operations?

Despite union claims that “rich corporations” are behind the efforts to reform public sector unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, with rare exceptions, it is their side that has the wealth. And that wealth is confiscated from taxpayers, and converted into an avalanche of funding for them to buy our elections. It is opposition to unions that is the underfunded, grassroots effort, arising spontaneously across the United States, that seeks to rein in public sector unions and reduce public employee compensation before it bankrupts the nation.

Will Wisconsin voters connect the dots?

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