On Question of Act 10′s Popularity, WI Gov. Walker Again Deemed Misinformer-in-Chief

Politifact has determined that comments made earlier this month by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker concerning public support for the anti-union Act 10 are false. During an April 1st radio interview with WISN-AM, Walker claimed that a poll taken “a few months” ago showed public support for his landmark anti-union legislation was at “70 percent or higher.” The fact checkers disgree, however, finding that the poll in question was taken in early 2012 and the results were not what the governor had claimed.

In the interview with conservative radio host Jay Weber, Walker delivered the inherently false remarks after being asked about his sagging approval numbers:

Weber cited results from a statewide Marquette Law School poll released on March 26, 2014, six days before the interview, and asked Walker about his approval rating.

The poll had shown 47 percent of registered Wisconsin voters approved of how Walker handled his job. That was down from 51 percent in the previous Marquette survey, done two months earlier. The new poll, Weber said, “showed that there was strong approval for the tax cut — who wouldn’t want their taxes cut? — but it didn’t translate into a bump in your approval ratings. So, what does that tell you — you need to sell this before fall?”

“Yeah, I think so. I think a combination,” Walker said before citing another poll result, albeit with a number of qualifiers.

“If you look at that, the previous poll that was taken a few months ago also showed, I think, there was something like — if I remember right — something like 70 percent approval or higher for our reforms, the reforms that are commonly called Act 10, the budgetary reforms which allowed not just the state but local governments to balance their budgets as well.”

Cleaned up, here’s the claim we’re checking:

A poll taken “a few months ago” — so, roughly early 2014, or perhaps late 2013 — found “70 percent approval or higher” for Act 10.

Not only was the poll in question not current, the actual results show that two years ago Wisconsin was heavily divided over Act 10 and remains so today.  Politifact looked at the results of the 2012 poll:

That question asked: “As you know, last year a number of changes were made concerning state employees, state spending and policies. For each, please tell me if this is something you favor or oppose — requiring public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay more for health insurance?”

The results were: Favor – 75 percent; Oppose – 22 percent; Don’t Know – 3 percent.

On other questions, however, support was not that high: 55 percent said they favored limiting collective-bargaining for most public employees and 50 percent said they preferred the change to collective bargaining rather than going back to the old law.

(Another school that does regular statewide polling in Wisconsin is St. Norbert College near Green Bay. Like Marquette, it has not polled on Act 10 since May 2012. The results at that time: 59 percent favored allowing public employees to collectively bargain for wages and 60 percent favored bargaining for health and retirement benefits.)

In any case, the Marquette results Walker cites are from nearly two years ago, not a few months ago. And no publicly released poll has asked Wisconsinites about Act 10 since then, according to Marquette Law School poll director Charles Franklin and St. Norbert College political science professor Wendy Scattergood, an associate with the St. Norbert College Survey Center Wisconsin.

As for what the level of support for Act 10 there may have been a few months ago, Franklin told us the results could be the same, but: “We simply don’t know.”

The dubious Act 10 may have become law in the early days of Walker’s tenure, but it is still a major issue — if not thee issue — in his re-election bid.  Sadly, Walker’s inability to tell the truth (job numbers, anyone?) has never much impacted his ability to carry out unpopular policy. It remains to be seen how strong of a candidate Democrat Mary Burke will be. And it’s also unclear what swing voters, consistently pummeled with disinformation from the governor’s office, will understand to be true come election day.

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