Voters in Ohio support restrictions on collective bargaining (60% support restrictions), and strong majorities (62%) oppose service cuts as a means of keeping public employees at current salary and benefit levels. ??These findings from Douglas E. Schoen ??? pollster for President Bill Clinton ??? should encourage supporters of Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which seeks to weaken the collective-bargaining power of about 360,000 public workers in the Buckeye State. But, the same poll also found that a majority of Ohioans oppose the specific collective bargaining changes in the bill. This conflict in attitudes suggests Ohio's voters are confused about the connection between changing collective bargaining rules and controlling public employees' costs and benefit packages.
Whatever the outcome of the November 8th referendum (and both sides are investing millions in television ads to sway voters to their side), Schoen's survey findings make clear Ohioans, and Americans more generally, are fed-up with how elected officials run their states, with the generosity of public sector employee wages and benefits, and with the overall fiscal health of their states.
Two-in-three American voters express frustration with the direction their state economies are moving and say their state is on the ???wrong track.??? A plurality (48%) blame their elect officials for their state budget problems, and a plurality (47%) say cutting government spending is the best way to address the problem facing states, while 31% would require public employees to contribute more towards their benefits. Just 13% of voters think the best way forward is raising taxes.
American voters expressed serious skepticism about the value of tenure for teachers and would like to see changes to defined benefit pension systems. Specifically, 56 percent of voters ???favor phasing out tenure for teachers because it protects bad teachers from being fired while making it harder to bring in new and better teachers, while just 39% say teacher tenure is a longstanding right for public school teachers.??? When it comes to pensions, seven in ten ???strongly favor moving all new public employees from the existing defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.??? A majority also says that overall salaries and benefits for public employees are too high (41%), while 31% of voters think they are just about right.
But, despite their frustrations with the costs of the public sector and their obvious desire for reforms and real leadership on these issues, Ohioans oppose the collective bargaining restrictions in Senate Bill 5 by a 52% to 43% margin. Ohio's voters are skeptical about how much money will actually be saved by limiting collective bargaining for public sector employees, and only 38% think the change to law will result in more reasonable benefits for public employees and thus help the state close its budget gap. Further, Ohioans overwhelmingly say it is more important to reform ???public employees' benefits??? (59%) than it is to reform ???collective bargaining??? (17%). Ohio's voters don't see the connection between changing collective bargaining rules and controlling public employees' costs and benefit packages.
Schoen's findings and survey methodology were released by the Manhattan Institute on September 20th and can be found here.