Dubious Anti-Right-to-Work Poll Fits Strategic Labor Agenda

Yesterday the Dead Governors touted the coincidentally-timed release of an April survey of Colorado voters showing alleged opposition to a right-to-work initiative at 56 percent to 36 percent support. Not surprisingly, Jason Bane and company appear to be carrying water for leaders in the union coalition, who are worried about having to spend money to defeat right-to-work and thus are trumping the dubious results of the RBI Strategies poll:

Without including the words “Right to Work” in the ballot title or language, there is little support among Colorado voters for this potential initiative. Predictably, the opposition to the initiative is strong among Democrats (65% are against). However, even a majority of unaffiliated voters oppose the measure.

Unfortunately for the Dead Guvs and Colorado’s Lefty coalition, there are several reasons to doubt the accuracy of this survey. First, there is no release of the internals of the sample polling size relative to Colorado’s actual voting population (how many Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliateds were asked the question?).

Doing a little pocketbook math based on the RBI reports and estimated statewide voter registration percentages (thanks to Colorado Confidential), we find that – if this poll is to be believed – 49% of Colorado’s Republican voters are opposed to right-to-work. Puh-lease. While the sample may be skewed, the question definitely is poorly worded.

So let’s look at the question. The Dead Guvs in the comment section of their post on this topic defend the poll from criticism with the brief remark: “That’s what the ballot question says.” But I trust my readers to compare. First, here’s the polling question:

Would you favor or oppose a statewide ballot initiative that would do the following: prohibit all labor contracts that would require joining a labor organization to get or keep a job or that require the payment of dues to labor organizations to get or keep a job.

Not so clearly written. Here’s the Oklahoma right-to-work language, from which the actual Colorado ballot initiative (I have obtained a hard copy borrows very closely – I’ve pasted the essential part of the language below:

B. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:

1. Resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;

2. Become or remain a member of a labor organization;

3. Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;

4. Pay to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or pro rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges regularly required of members of a labor organization

Judge for yourself. But any survey that skews the wording of its question and won’t reveal key data of its polling sample makes it extremely difficult to be accepted at face value. RBI Strategies clients are all Democrats and liberal groups, even including a labor union or two. Putting two and two together, the results fit the agenda almost too well.

I predicted just a couple days ago that any attempt to push right-to-work by a state ballot initiative in Colorado likely wouldn’t succeed in the current political climate – but not because the idea is inherently unpopular. A 2004 national Zogby poll showed strong support (73 percent) for the idea when presented in language that gave clear alternatives. I wrote:

Without [the business community’s] financial support, labor unions would be at the advantage to motivate their base in opposition, to spend vast resources, and to confuse voters by distorting the issue.

It’s becoming more apparent to me now that my observations were just a little bit naive. Union leaders and their paid political consultants are trying to get out in front of the right-to-work issue before it can get on the ballot, saving them from having to spend a lot of resources later to defeat it.

Sort of a cousin to the “ounce of prevention” school of thought – spend a little to distort the facts now to discourage a small number from putting the idea on the ballot, rather than spend a lot later to persuade hundreds of thousands of Coloradans to vote against workers’ rights to choose leading up to the November election.

Very crafty. Very crafty, indeed. Some of my counterparts on the Left would benefit from practicing a little more critical thinking, even when it’s not convenient to do so.

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