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Mixed Views Nationally on Teachers' Unions, Collective Bargaining

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that Ohio voters, by a wide margin, favor repealing a controversial law that restricts collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers. By next Tuesday, Nov. 8, we'll know whether that poll was on the money.

But at the national level, public opinion appears to be more divided on whether teachers' unions—major players in the Ohio fight—are a positive influence on education.

A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll released in August asked the public whether they believe unions helped, hurt, or had no impact on educational quality. Forty-seven percent said that unions hurt public education—a jump from 38 percent in 1976. A smaller portion of those polled, 26 percent, said unions had helped, though that number had also risen from 35 years ago, when it stood at 22 percent.

But when asked who they sided with in disputes between governors and teachers' unions, a majority, 52 percent, took the side of labor, while 42 percent said they sided with top state elected officials.

Of course, all kinds of factors are likely to sway public opinion on those issues at the national level, and within individual states like Ohio—like the effectiveness of the political message and the political makeup of those states.

Voters are well known for having more critical views of U.S. education on the whole than they do of the education provided by their local schools (the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup polls bears this out). In the state and national polls, it's possible we're seeing similiar differences in how voters view teachers unions in the abstract, as opposed to how they see the labor groups in their home states and communities.

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