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Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim That Americans Do Not Support Unions

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The second question in the Rasmussen poll found that 36-percent of respondents believe that public-sector employees earn more than private-sector workers in their state, while 21-percent thought public sector workers earned less, and 20-percent thought they earned about the same amount.

In fact, according to an analysis by USA Today, state employees earn about 5-percent less than comparable employees in the private sector, on average, although federal employees receive significantly (20-percent) more.

A poll is not a pop quiz, and the respondents in the survey are not to blame for giving the "wrong" response. Also, the question posed by Rasmussen, which did not consider the type of work performed and asked simply about average salaries in the respondent's home state, was not exactly the same as the one studied by USA Today, which covered the whole country and took account of the the type of work done. Still, to the extent that this misperception about pay levels is widely held and casts public employees in a less favorable light, a survey question that reminds respondents of it could bias responses to later questions.

[...]

Because of the problems with question design, my advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward. [The New York Times, 2/21/11]

Blumenthal: "Rasmussen's Results Raise More Questions Than They Answer." Pollster Mark Blumenthal's analysis of Rasmussen's poll similarly argued that the order in which the questions were asked of respondents could have biased the response. He further argued: "The more typical approach would involve asking a more general version of question one ('how closely have you been following the dispute between the Governor of Wisconsin and the public employee unions in Wisconsin?') and then go immediately to something like question four." [The Huffington Post, 2/21/11]

Other Public Opinion Polls Show Widespread Support For Public Employees

NYT/CBS Poll Shows Overwhelming Support For Union Workers. In the latest New York Times/ CBS News Poll, results show that "Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60-percent to 33-percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them." [The New York Times, 2/28/11]

USA Today/Gallup Poll Shows Majority Support For Union Workers. In a USA Today/Gallup Poll from February 22, results show that while Republicans supported limiting the rights of union workers by a 54-percent to 41-percent margin, 79-percent of Democrats and 61-percent of independents polled were against the limitation of union bargaining rights, representing the majority of total persons polled. As USA Today reported, overall, "[t]he poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law." [USA Today, 2/22/11]

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.
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