Ads by unions, Democrats now focused on other issues
Madison, Wisc. — Democrats and union members here screamed about government employee union collective bargaining when reforms were introduced by Gov. Scott Walker. But as voters head to the polls today those protesters must have decided the issue was a loser.
Ads attacking Gov. Walker have centered on two themes: one is that education spending was cut, tuition rates went up and the middle class was being destroyed (the ads also claim that under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin has lost more jobs than any other state); another alleges corruption in a so-called John Doe probe, an investigation involving events that took place when Gov. Walker was Milwaukee County executive (Gov. Walker denies that the investigation is focused on him).
But the issue of limiting government union employee collective bargaining is nowhere in sight.
"The recall was about our reforms," Gov. Walker said recently after being grilled by reporters about the John Doe probe. "Our opponents don't want to talk about them."
But they did in 2011.
"Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Union," was a headline in the Feb. 28, 2011 edition of The New York Times.
"New Polls Bring More Bad News for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker," read a March 1, 2011 headline in U.S. News and World Report.
Adam Geller, CEO of National Research Inc., and the pollster for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said he wasn't surprised to see that the reality today doesn't line up with the picture the national news media presented in 2011, and for much of 2012.
"It doesn't surprise me at all, based on what I've seen in New Jersey." Geller said. "Gov. Christie has been a guy who has been willing to take on the unions as well. Now his popularity has gone up.
"I think I read some place that under Walker, Wisconsin has a balanced budget for the first time in 30 years. It takes a guy who is willing to do what needs to be done for that accomplishment. It's not easy to defeat someone like that."
In 2011, Geller wrote that the polls that claimed to show that a majority of Americans were opposed to Walker's collective bargaining reforms were flawed.
"Often times, sadly, public polls are done in the least expensive way possible," Geller said. "When that happens the pollsters take short cuts that strongly affect the results. In the worst case scenario the polls you're talking about last year were done that way on purpose. In the best case scenario, the pollsters were taking short cuts, and not choosing the wording carefully because they were trying to do it quickly."
In some cases that means pollsters get too many non-voters in their responses or talk to too many Democrats, for example. Or, as was the case with the U.S. News report, the story was based on a survey done by a Democrat-leaning polling company.
Many, of those polls published about collective bargaining were surveys of "Americans," instead of "likely voters," which was the case with the Feb. 28, 2011, New York Times story. Geller said that often makes a big difference.
"Then you see very lazy analysts and members of the news media cite the polls without noting who was being surveyed," he said. "Another one we see a lot is poll results from surveys of adults. But many adults don't vote. Even polls of voters can be misleading, all voters aren't likely voters. Those kinds of polls aren't particularly accurate."
"There's a sign on a business near here that says, 'Educated customers are our customers'," Geller said. "What we need are more educated voters. At the end of the day, tea party voters are educated voters. God bless them. They refuse to swallow everything they're being fed."
Today's vote in Wisconsin is seen by many as the beginning of a major battle unions are trying to wage nationally against reforms that modify the perks and benefits they've enjoyed for decades. Unions in Michigan are backing efforts to enshrine union friendly protections in the state constitution.