Sunday, February 27, 2011

"You can't have one group who are the haves and one group . . . who are the have-nots”

Those egalitarian sentiments are from Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin. By “the haves,” he doesn't mean people who actually have a lot of money, but public-sector workers. Many news accounts suggest that the public sees things this way too—that there's a lot of resentment of public employees, and especially public-employee unions. For example, there's the New York Times magazine article from which the quote is taken, or this one from the Guardian.

Is this true? There have been some very recent surveys about the proposed Wisconsin law, but here are some older ones.

This isn't about pay and benefits, but the changes are interesting:

“Most teachers in the nation now belong to unions or associations that bargain over salaries, working conditions and the like. Has unionization, in your opinion, helped, hurt, or made no difference in the quality of public school education in the United States? “ (Gallup)

1976: 22% helped; 38% hurt; 27% no difference; 13% don't know
1984: 49% helped; 29% hurt; 26% no difference; 7% don't know
1998: 27% helped; 26% hurt; 37% no difference; 10% don't know

On pay and benefits:

Just your own opinion, do you believe that federal government employees are paid more, or paid less than the same persons would earn in non-governmental jobs? (Gallup, 1977)

64% more; 12% less; 13% about the same (volunteered); 11% don't know

Finally, do you think--relative to workers in private industry--that government employees are overpaid, underpaid, or fairly paid? (American Enterprise Institute, 1981)

44% overpaid; 11% underpaid; 38% fairly paid; 7% don't know

In general, do you think the salaries and benefits of most government employees are too high for the work that they do, too low for the work that they do, or are their salaries and benefits about right for the work that they do? (CBS News, January 2011)

54% too high; 4% too low; 32% about right; 5% depends (volunteered); 5% don't know

On the other hand:

In general, do you think teachers are paid too much or too little for the job they are expected to do? (National Opinion Research Corporation, 1943)

2% too much; 58% too little; 30% about right; 9% don't know

Do you think public school teachers get paid too little for the work they do, too much for the work they do, or about the right amount? (Stanford University/Associated Press, 2010)

7% too much; 57% too little; 31% about right; 5% don't know

There were quite a few survey questions about teachers' pay in between 1943 and 2010, but it gets a kind of monotonous, because the results are always about the same. But there is one that's worth special notice because it mentions taxes:

Bearing in mind that they are paid out of taxes, do you think public school teachers are paid enough, too little, or too much? (Business Week/Harris 1992)

35% enough; 55% too little; 6% too much; 4% not sure.

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