Sixty-three percent of Americans polled by Bloomberg don't think states should be able to break their promises to retirees, and respondents split over whether Republican governors aim to balance their budgets or weaken unions that back Democratic foes.
The poll, conducted March 4-7, shows that political challenges to government workers are failing to draw broad support from a public more concerned about unemployment than government deficits. Respondents are divided over whether public employees should sacrifice to help states ease their fiscal crises: About half say governors are unfairly targeting unions and 46% say public employees should be willing to accept benefit cuts. The fracture largely reflects party lines.
With states facing budget deficits of $175 billion over the next two years, tax revenue yet to rebound from the recession, and pension funds strained by investment losses, even government workers in Democratic-led states including New York and California are facing job losses, pay cuts or challenges to retirement benefits.
Rising tensions between Republican politicians and state workers sparked protests in the Midwest. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, first elected in the November races that also put their party in charge of a majority of states and the U.S. House, are seeking to roll back the collective bargaining rights of government workers. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also has challenged worker benefits he says threaten to hobble his state.