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71% Believe Government Workers Get Better Pensions Than Those In Private Sector

Most voters believe those who work for the government get better retirement benefits than those who work for private companies and also think it's unlikely their state can afford the benefits given to state workers.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of Likely U. S. Voters feel that, generally speaking, government workers get better pensions than private sector workers. Only 14% disagree, while slightly more (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

However, just 32% of all voters say it's at least somewhat likely that their state will be able to afford all the pension benefits it has promised to state workers while 56% say it's not likely. Those figures include 8% who say it is Very Likely and 16% who say it is Not At All Likely.

Voters strongly believe that government workers should wait until around age 65 to begin collecting full pension benefits. If someone joins the police force at age 20 and stays for 25 years, only 28% believe that person should receive a full pension for life at age 45. Sixty-one percent (61%) think they should find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive the full pension from their police work.

Similarly, if someone becomes a teacher right out of college and stays for 30 years until they retire, just 36% say they should receive their full pension for life at that time. Fifty-six percent (56%), however, say they should find another job and wait until they retire around age 65 to get their full teaching pension.

Most Americans continue to believe government workers also have more job security than those in the private sector and that they don't work as hard as private sector workers. 

Sixty-five percent (65%) of government employees believe that their pensions are better than those of private sector workers, a view shared by 77% of those employed by a private company.

Perhaps not surprisingly since most unionized public employees are aligned with the Democratic Party, a plurality (48%) of Democrats say their state is at least somewhat likely to be able to meet promised pension benefits. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republicans and 65% of voters not affiliated with either major party say that's unlikely.

Governors in Wisconsin and New Jersey, battling large budget deficits, are at the forefront of efforts around the country to get unionized state employees to pay more for their health and pension benefits. In some states, these employees pay little or nothing toward those benefits, while nearly all private sector employees have sizable sums deducted from their paychecks for such benefits.

Male and female voters are in general agreement when it comes to the timing of police pensions, but women are more inclined to favor early benefits for teachers than men are.

Mainstream voters feel much more strongly than those in the Political Class that government workers have better pension benefits. Yet while 64% of Political Class voters think it's likely that their state can afford the pension benefits promised to state workers, 70% of those in the Mainstream disagree.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of all voters say they have followed recent news stories about pension plans provided for government employees, with 50% who say they are following Very Closely.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters nationwide think that in their state the average public employee earns more than the average private sector worker.  Twenty-one percent (21%) say the government employee earns less, while 20% think their pay is about the same. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.

Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers but a plurality are supportive of significant pay cuts for state workers.  As Governor Scott Walker and public employee unions battle in the court of public opinion, Wisconsin voters continue to see spending cuts as the proper path to solving the state's budgetary woes.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen , president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 2-3, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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