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A M O N T H L Y P O L L C O M P I L A T I O N

Volume 7, Issue 3 • March 2011

Update on President Obama


The uptick in positive views of President Obama in late December and January appears to be receding. President Obama’s
support among whites is currently 39 percent, a particularly anemic showing. Higher gas prices may be contributing. In
2006, Gallup looked at the effect rising gas prices had on presidents, noting that “in the past, presidents have not fared
well when gas prices were high. In fact, some of the lowest approval ratings Gallup has ever recorded were measured at
times when the nation faced a gas crisis.”
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?
Recent average weekly ratings of Barack Obama
—————————————————Percent approve—————————————————
National Rep. Dem. Ind. Whites
December week one 46% 10% 78% 42% 37%
December week two 45 12 80 41 36
December week three 46 14 79 41 38
December week four 47 12 85 45 38
January week one 48 13 82 46 40
January week two 49 15 83 46 40
January week three 50 14 84 49 43
January week four 50 15 84 45 41
February week one 47 14 83 42 39
February week two 48 16 81 45 40
February week three 48 15 83 43 40
February week four 48 11 82 45 39
March week one 46 14 79 43 39
March week two 47 14 79 44 39
Source: Gallup weekly averages.

Pain at the Pump: The Public Reacts to Higher Gas Prices


Q: Thinking about some specific aspects of the nation’s economy . . . Please tell me if you are hearing . . . ?
Financial Real estate Prices for food and The job ——Gas prices——
markets values consumer goods situation (March) (Feb.)
Mostly good news 12% 8% 7% 10% 1% 2%
Mostly bad news 33 46 62 50 90 77
A mix of good and
bad news 47 36 26 37 7 18
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, latest that of March 2011.

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Report Shorts: Quick Takes on Issues in the News
Low On Congress
Although there was some small improvement in Congress’s ratings in some polls in late 2010 and early 2011, the institution’s
ratings continue to be very low. In 1995 and 2007, when party control of Congress changed hands, the body’s ratings also
improved for a short time.

Approve of the job Congress is doing 18%


Disapprove 74
Note: Twenty percent of Republicans and Democrats approved; 15 percent of independents did. In a mid-March ABC/Washington Post poll,
27 percent approved.
Source: Gallup, March 2011.

Comparing the Speakers


In March 1995, Newt Gingrich had slightly higher positive marks than John Boehner has today. But Gingrich’s negatives
were also considerably higher. In both years, many people were neutral or didn’t have an opinion.

Positive Negative
Newt Gingrich (Mar. 1995) 27% 41%

John Boehner (Feb. 2011) 20% 21%


Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, latest that of February 2011.

Drill Baby Drill? Who Has the Political Advantage?


Gallup shows an uptick in support for “increasing off- Individuals are usually more popular than institutions,
shore drilling in U.S. coastal areas” since May last year and in the new ABC/Washington Post poll, President
when the BP oil spill was in the news. Obama bests the Republicans in Congress on the economy
and the deficit. The GOP had gained ground in the ABC/
March 2011 May 2010 Post December poll, but slipped back again this month.
Favor 60% 50% People believe that the Republicans in Congress are
Oppose 37 46 taking a stronger leadership role than the President.
Source: Gallup, latest that of March 2011.
—Trust to do a better job—
Stimulus Stasis Obama Republicans
in Congress
In six questions asked since April 2009 by ABC/Washington
Economy 46% 34%
Post pollsters, no more than 37 percent have ever said
that the stimulus program has helped the economy. Deficit 45% 36%
Here’s the latest:
Taking a stronger
Federal government’s economic leadership role 39% 46%
stimulus program has helped
Source: ABC/Washington Post, March 2011.
the national economy 28%
Hurt 21
Hasn’t made much difference 49

Source: ABC/Washington Post, March 2011.

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Health Care at Year One
One year ago, on March 23, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Most pollsters have
continued to ask about people’s reaction to it, albeit not as often as they did during the heat of the debate. Comparing
March 2010 polls and polls taken thus far this year shows that opinion of the bill has not improved significantly. Responses
to most pollsters’ questions seem to move in a narrow range. Here’s a sampling from a few of the major pollsters:

ABC/Post CBS/NYT Pew NBC/WSJ


Support/Oppose Approve/Disapprove Favor/Oppose Good/Bad idea
March 2010 48% 49% 37% 48% 40% 47% 36% 48%

Early 2011 45 50 33 51 41 48 39 39
Source: ABC/Washington Post, latest that of January 2011; CBS/New York Times, latest that of February 2011; Pew Research Center, latest
that of January 2011; and NBC/Wall Street Journal, latest that of January 2011.

Aiding Libya? Nuclear Power Now?


The polls below were conducted at the same time but pro- We expect a flurry of new polls on nuclear power in the
duced very different results. Question wording could coming weeks. Gallup took a one-day poll on March 15,
explain the difference. Pew introduced the subject by ask- and the results of one question from it are shown here. In
ing if the U.S. had a responsibility to do something about another question in the new poll, 44 percent favored the
the fighting there. Twenty-seven percent said we did, and construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S. while
that introduction to the subject could explain why Pew’s 47 percent were opposed. As with other issues involving
results are more negative than CNN’s. risk, women were less in favor of construction than men
(34 to 55 percent). Democrats (32 percent) were less likely
Favor U.S. and other countries to favor construction than Republicans (62 percent).
sending arms and supplies to Independents were split.
the people who are fighting 2001 2010 2011
to remove Gaddafi from power 53% (Post-Japanese
Oppose 43
earthquake)
Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, March 10–13, 2011. Favor the use of nuclear
energy as one of the ways
Favor U.S. and its allies sending arms to provide electricity
and supplies to anti-government for the U.S. 48% 62% 57%
groups in Libya 23% Oppose 46 33 38
Oppose 69 Source: Gallup, latest that March 15, 2011.
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, March 10-13, 2011.

To Cut or Not to Cut?


The country is split down the middle when it comes to Trust Obama to do a better job 43%
who will find the right balance between “cutting govern- Trust Republicans in Congress 42
ment spending that is not needed” and “continuing Source: ABC/Washington Post, March 2011.
government spending that is needed.”

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The Union Label
The next few pages of this issue of AEI’s Political Report look at what we have learned about views of unions nationally
and in Wisconsin. For 75 years, Gallup has asked Americans whether they approve or disapprove of unions. In the Gallup
(and Pew) polls, opinions became sharply more negative in 2009 and 2010 with a slight recovery in early 2011. Recent
negative attitudes have coincided with troubled economic times. Only 24 percent of Americans think labor unions have a
positive impact on American companies’ ability to compete globally.
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of . . . ? (Gallup)
Q: Just in general is your overall opinion of . . . ? (Pew)

Opinion of Labor Unions


80

70

60
Approve of 52%
Labor Unions
50
(Gallup)
46%
40 47%
Favorable Opinion
of Labor Unions
30 (Pew)

20

10

0
July 1936

July 1942

July 1948

July 1954

July 1960

July 1966

July 1972

July 1978

July 1984

July 1990

July 1996

July 2002

Source: Gallup, latest that of August 2010; PSRA/Pew Research Center, latest that of March 2011.

Q: Would you, personally, like to see . . . ? Q: Overall, do you think. . . ?


——— Labor unions have a ———
1999 2010
Positive Negative Not much
Would like to see
effect on effect on of an effect
labor unions have
more influence than Salary and benefits of
they have today 30% 29% union workers 53% 17% 22%
Less 32 40 Working conditions for
Same 36 27 all American workers 51 17 25
Workplace productivity 34 30 26
Source: Gallup, latest that of August 2010.
Availability of good jobs
in America 32 33 28
Ability of American com-
panies to compete 24 36 30
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, February 2011.
(continued on the next page)

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(continued from the previous page)

Q: Now I’m going to read you the names of several public figures, groups, organizations and countries, and I’d like you
to rate your feelings toward each one as . . . ?
Labor Teacher Federal gov. State and
unions unions Teachers employees local employees
Positive feelings 38% 47% 73% 42% 47%
Neutral 22 19 15 34 27
Negative 36 30 10 22 24
Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, February 2011.

Q: As you may know, some labor unions represent people who are employed by private companies, while others repre-
sent people who are employed by state or local governments. Do you have a generally . . . ?
Favorable opinion of . . . Unfavorable opinion of . . .
Unions that represent workers
for private companies 48% 37%

Unions that represent workers


for state/ local governments 48% 40%
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, February 2011.

Union Households: How They Vote


Union households are reliably Democratic in elections. Nineteen seventy two remains the exception, when union house-
holds split their votes between Richard Nixon and George McGovern.

Union Households
80

70 Democrat for House

60
60%
Democrat for 59%
50 President
39%
40
37%
30
Republican for House
Republican for
20 President

10

0
1952

1955

1958

1961

1964

1967

1970

1973

1976

1979

1982

1985

1988

1991

1994

1997

2000

2003

2006

2009

Source: AEI compilation. Data from 1952 through 1974 are from Gallup’s final pre-election poll each election year. All other data are from the
major network/Associated Press exit polls.

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The Verdict on Public Employees
The polls suggest that majorities of Americans support making public employees pay more for their benefits and retirement
programs. It is not clear that Americans make a distinction between public and private sector unions when they think
about collective bargaining. Most polls show more support than opposition for public employee collective bargaining.
Q: In general, do you think . . . ?
—————Responses of——————
Union
National Rep. Dem. Ind. households
Public employees are paid too much 42% 59% 31% 42% 37%
Too little 15 6 24 13 22
About right 35 28 38 37 34
Source: Quinnipiac, February 2011.

Q: Do you think . . . ?
Public employees receive better compensation
[than] comparable private sector employees 43%
Worse 21
About the same 27
Source: Selzer & Company/Bloomberg, March 2011.

Q: Do you think . . . ?
Public employees who belong to a union
and work for state government, city
government, or a school district should
have the same right to bargain when it comes
to their health care, pension, and other
benefits as employees who belong to a union
and work for private companies 77%
Should not 19
Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, February 2011.

Q: In order to reduce state budget deficits, would you . . . ?


——————Responses of——————
National Rep. Dem. Ind. Union
households
Support making public employees
pay more for their benefits and
retirement programs 63% 72% 47% 70% 57%
Oppose 31 22 45 26 39

Support limiting collective bargaining


for public employees 45% 59% 33% 45% 29%
Oppose 42 25 56 43 62
Source: Quinnipiac, February 2011.

(continued on the next page)

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Q: Let me read you a number of steps that elected officials are considering to deal with state budget deficits that affect
public employees who work for state government, city government, or a school district. For each one, please tell me if
you find this . . .
Acceptable Unacceptable
Require public employees to
contribute more of their pay
for their retirement benefits 68% 29%
Require public employees to
contribute more of their pay for
health care benefits 63 34
Freeze public employees’ salaries
for one year 58 40
Eliminate public employees’ right
to collectively bargain over health
care, pensions, and other benefits
when negotiating a union contract 33 62
Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, February 2011.

Q: Do you think public employees . . . ?


Public employees should have the right
to collectively bargain for wages 64%
Should not 32
Source: Selzer & Company/Bloomberg, March 2010.

Limiting Collective Bargaining: What’s Motivating the Politicians?


Around four in ten or more in recent polls believe governors’ or state legislators’ efforts to limit collective bargaining are
designed to weaken unions.

Q: Do you think . . . ? Q: In general, when governors and state legislators try to


The effort to limit collective bargaining reduce the benefits of public employees, do you think . . . ?
by public employees is more about They are doing this mostly to reduce
weakening unions 41% state budget deficits 49%
More about controlling government costs 47 Mostly to weaken the power of unions 43
Note: Sixty-two percent of union households said it was to weaken Source: Selzer & Company/Bloomberg, March 2011.
unions, 30 percent to control costs.
Source: Quinnipiac, February 2011.

Q: With states facing budget crunches, several Republican governors across the country are trying to scale back benefits
for state workers. Which of the following positions . . . ?
Comes closest to your view . . .
Public employees enjoy generous Governors are unfairly targeting
benefits that cash-strapped states public employee unions and
can ill afford, and they should be should not seek to balance their
willing to sacrifice to help states budgets by taking away benefits
avoid a budget crisis 46% promised to state workers 49%

Source: Selzer & Company/Bloomberg, March 2011.

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Opinions in Wisconsin
In the 2010 election in Wisconsin, 26 percent of voters were members of union households. They voted for the Democratic
candidate for Governor Tom Barrett. Non-union households voted for Scott Walker, the Republican. The Wisconsin
Policy Research Institute polled Wisconsin residents’ opinions right after the November 2010 election and again in late
February and early March when the controversy about Governor Walker’s plans was most intense. Thirty-five percent
had a negative view of him in the post-election poll. Fifty-three percent did so in the new poll, taken during the heat of
the controversy.

Election Results from 2010


——————————————Voted for——————————————
Barrett Walker
Actual Vote 46.48% 52.25%

Exit Poll
(Percent of
electorate)
Whites (90%) 43% 55%
Whites with
no college (55%) 40 58
Union HH
Yes (26%) 63 37
No (74%) 43 56
Source: Wisconsin Secretary of State (actual results) and National Exit Poll Consortium for Wisconsin subgroup results.

Q: Do you . . . ?
Some college
Total Whites or less
Have a favorable opinion
of Scott Walker
November 2010 45% 47% 42%
Feb.–Mar. 2011 43 46 49

Unfavorable
November 2010 35% 32% 33%
Feb.–Mar. 2010 53 50 52
Source: The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, latest that of February–March 2011.

Q: Do you think the state budget in Wisconsin—that is, the balance between government spending and revenues—is a . . . ?
State budget in Wisconsin is a big problem 59%
Somewhat of a problem 36
Not a problem 3
Source: The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, February – March 2011.

(continued on the next page)

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(continued from the previous page—Opinions in Wisconsin)

Q: I’m now going to read you a list of people and organizations that have been in the news recently. Please tell me
if you . . .
Have a favorable opinion of Unfavorable
70% Teachers 25%
67 Public employees 25
59 Teachers unions 36
59 Public employee unions 34
Democrats in the
50 state legislature 42
Republicans in the
46 state legislature 46
43 Scott Walker 53
38 Tea Party members 44

Source: The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, February–March 2011.

Q: Now I’m going to mention some specific parts of the bill. For each, please tell me if this is something you . . .
Favor Oppose
Requiring public employees to contribute
to their own pensions 81% 18%
Limiting most public employees’ ability to
negotiate over non-wage issues in order
to prevent local union affiliates from
obstructing the budgeting process for
local governments 47 50
Stripping most public employees of
their right to collectively bargain over
benefits and working conditions as part
of a ploy to eliminate public employee
unions altogether 32 58
Note: The wording in the second and third items was part of a split-ballot experiment.
Source: The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, latest that of February–March 2011.

AEI POLITICAL REPORT CONTRIBUTORS


Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow; John Fortier, Research Research Assistants: Jennifer Marsico, Editor; Andrew
Fellow; Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar; Rugg, Editor.
Michael Barone, Resident Fellow. Interns: Greg Brooks, Julia Goldstein, Matt Hoyt.

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The State of the States
There is widespread agreement in the country and in polls taken in individual states that states are facing very serious
budgetary problems. As is the case nationally, it isn’t clear what people want to do about it. Raising taxes is decidedly
unpopular.
Q: As you may know, some state governments are facing budget problems that have forced them to raise taxes or
reduce spending. What about in your state: Is your state government currently . . . ? Q: (Asked of those who say state is
facing budget problems) Are these budget problems very serious, fairly serious, or not too serious?
Yes, state currently facing budget problems 81%
Very serious 36
Fairly serious 36
Not too serious 8

State is not facing budget problems 12


Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, February 2011.

Q: What is the best way to deal with the budget in your state? Should state lawmakers . . . ?
State lawmakers should mostly focus on . . .
Cutting major programs 19%
Increasing taxes 4
A combination of both 68
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, February 2011.

Q: Thinking now about state government efforts to balance their budgets, please say whether you would . . . ?
Favor Oppose
Reducing or eliminating certain state
programs 65% 32%
Reducing the number of workers on
the state payroll 62 35
Changing state laws to limit the bargaining
power of state employee unions 49 45
Raising state taxes on business 39 58
Raising state income or sales taxes 33 66
Borrowing more money by issuing bonds 30 66
Source: Gallup, March 2011.

Q: As you may know, many U.S. state governments are facing large budget deficits this year. Please say whether you . . .
the following ways state officials could reduce their budget deficits?
Favor Oppose
Reducing or eliminating
certain state programs 47% 48%
Reducing pay or benefits the state
provides for government workers 44 53
Increasing state sales, income, or
other taxes 27 71
Source: Gallup/USA Today, February 2011.

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Q: How would you rate the job performance of . . . ?
Excellent/good Fair/poor
Your state government when it comes
to balancing your state’s budget 22% 70%
Your state’s governor 42 57
Your state’s legislature 23 73
Source: Zogby International online poll, February 2010.

Q: As you may know, by law most states must balance their budgets, but many states are now unable to do so. In your
opinion, which is the better way to address this problem?
2011 2010 2003
The federal government should give
more money to states to help them
meet their budgets, even if it means
higher federal deficits 27% 26% 35%
States should take care of this themselves,
either by raising state taxes or cutting
state services 60 58 57
Source: CBS, April 2003; PSRA/Pew Research Center, latest that of February 2011.

The State of the Nation


Q: How serious a problem do you think . . . ?
Feb. 2011 Feb. 2003
Federal budget deficit is a . . .
Very serious problem 79% 44%
Somewhat serious 17 42
Not too serious 2 9
Not at all serious 1 2
Note: In an early February 2011 Gallup poll, 11 percent volunteered that the federal budget deficit/federal debt was the most important issue
facing the country.
Source: Quinnipiac, latest that of February 2011.

Q: In order to help reduce the budget deficit, do you think . . . ?


President Obama Republicans in Congress
Would cut government spending too much 10% 32%
Too little 51 33
About the right amount 32 29
Source: Quinnipiac, latest that of February 2011.

Q: In order to help reduce the budget deficit, do you think . . . ?


President Obama Republicans in Congress
Would increase taxes too much 44% 33%
Too little 14 25
About the right amount 36 36
Note: Forty-six percent of Democrats thought Republicans in Congress would increase taxes too much.
Source: Quinnipiac, latest that of February 2011.

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News about National Public Radio
Sixty-one percent of Americans never listen to NPR while 10 percent tune in regularly. The age profile of NPR’s regular
listeners is similar to the age profile of the country as a whole. Its regular audience is more upscale in terms of education
and income than the general public. It is also more Democratic and more liberal than the population as a whole.
Q: Now I’d like to know how often you watch or listen to certain TV and radio programs. For each that I read, tell me if
you watch or listen to it . . .
Listen to NPR
Regularly 10%
Sometimes 13
Hardly ever 14
Never 61
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, June 2010.

Comparing NPR’s Regular Listeners to the Nation as a Whole


18–29 30–49 50–64 65+
National sample 23% 32% 27% 17%
NPR audience* 21 35 28 16
<$30,000 $30–74,999 >$75,000
National sample 28% 31% 26%
NPR audience* 17 29 44
HS or less Some college College grad
National sample 45% 25% 30%
NPR audience* 23 24 53
Rep. Dem. Ind.
National sample 25% 33% 34%
NPR audience* 14 40 41
Conservative Moderate Liberal
National sample 36% 37% 19%
NPR audience* 22 45 29
Note: * Regular listeners.
Source: PSRA/Pew Research Center, June 2010.

Q: Do you . . . ?
Support cutting off federal
government funding to NPR Oppose
40% Natl. 49%

54% Rep. 33%


27 Dem. 62
40 Ind. 50
Source: Quinnipiac, February 2011.

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Who’s Hot, Who’s Not The Donald
Q: I’d like to get your feelings toward some of our Q: Now I’m going to read you the names of several
political leaders and other people who have been in public figures, groups, organizations and countries,
the news. I’ll read the name of a person and I’d like and I’d like you to rate your feelings toward each one
you to rate that person using something called a feeling as . . .
thermometer. You can choose any number between Positive feelings about
0 and 100. The higher the number the warmer or more Donald Trump Neutral Negative
favorable you feel toward that person, the lower the July 1990 14% 28% 49%
number, the colder or less favorable. If we come to a Oct. 1999 14 25 55
person who you haven’t heard enough about to form Dec. 1999 16 28 48
an opinion, you don’t need to rate the person. Just tell May 2004 26 38 29
me and we’ll move on to the next one. Feb. 2011 26 49 29
Mean Percent who Source: NBC/Wall Street Journal, February 2011.
thermometer did not know
score enough about
(Of those who the people
knew enough
to rate)
to rate them
The Sheen on Charlie Sheen
Top five We’re not surprised the pollsters have turned their atten-
Michelle Obama 60.1° 4% tion to Charlie Sheen. The CNN/Opinion Research Cor-
President Clinton 59.2 2 poration poll shown below suggests that he is one of the
Christopher Christie 57.0 55 least popular figures in America. Hardly anyone thinks
President Obama 56.5 0 he’s “winning,” to use a formulation that he himself uses.
Rudolph Giuliani 52.3 13 A new online Public Policy Poll pits Sheen against Sarah
Palin and Barack Obama. Palin leads Sheen by 49-29 per-
Bottom five cent (although she loses to him among independents) and
Haley Barbour 43.5 65 Obama beats him by 57 to 24 percent. In another question
Newt Gingrich 42.7 17 in the poll, the gap between those who had a favorable and
Sarah Palin 38.2 4 unfavorable opinion of Sheen (57 points) was identical to
Harry Reid 34.8 37 the gap about John Edwards in an earlier poll.
Nancy Pelosi 32.9 15
Q: Please say if you . . .
Source: Quinnipiac, February 2011.
Have a favorable opinion of Charlie Sheen 17%
Unfavorable 69

Q: As you may know, [Charlie Sheen] frequently has used


Save the Date—April 1 the word "winning" when talking about himself. Based
on what you know about his recent behavior, would you
An Early Look at the 112th Congress say that . . . ?
What do the early days of the 112th Congress tell us Charlie Sheen has been mostly been
about the country’s policy direction? How has Congress winning in the past few weeks 17%
changed since the 1994 Republican takeover? Learn the Mostly losing 75
answers to these questions and many more on April 1, Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, March 2011.
when AEI will host its first Politics Watch event of the
year, The First 100 Days: An Early Look at the 112th Q: Who do you think . . . ?
Congress. A panel of experts, including former members
Actor Charlie Sheen has a firmer grip on reality 32%
of Congress Vic Fazio and Vin Weber (invited) and
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 14
Wall Street Journal congressional correspondent Janet
Neither 37
Hook, will offer their insights. For more information
and to register, please visit www.aei.org/events. Source: Fox/Robins/Shaw, May 2011.

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