Hoosier Survey finds Indiana residents undecided on right-to-work issue

Topic: Miller College of Business

December 15, 2011

The right-to-work bill championed by Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly promises to be a hot topic in the upcoming session, but many Hoosiers are unsure about the issue, says a new study by Ball State University.

The 2011 Hoosier Survey, produced by Ball State's Bowen Center for Public Affairs, found that about 48 percent of respondents were undecided on the right-to-work issue. Those who expressed an opinion were nearly evenly split with 27 percent supporting and 24 percent opposing the legislation.

Right-to-work laws are enforced in 22 states, prohibiting agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, which would require the workplace to be a closed shop.

During the 2011 legislative session, Indiana House Democrats refused to show up for several weeks, blocking a Republican-backed labor bill.

"Our study shows that right-to-work is not a settled issue in the minds of Hoosiers," said Ray Scheele, Bowen Center co-director and political science professor. "Proponents and opponents of the right-to-work issue have a lot of convincing to do before one side prevails."

The study also found that 56 percent of Hoosiers support a statewide ban on smoking in public places. This high level of support cuts across all regions of the state, with residents of southern Indiana expressing the highest level of support at 62 percent with northern and central Indiana residents both at 55 percent. 

Survey results were announced Dec. 15 during the Bingham-McHale Legislative Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.

Ball State's Hoosier Survey provides Indiana lawmakers with public opinion on a variety of highly charged issues to be considered next year. The Bowen Center contracted with the Princeton Survey Research Associates to poll 600 voting-age adults.

The survey also found:

  • About 33 percent of respondents support expanding the use of school vouchers for charter and private schools with 37 percent opposed the extension.
  • About 78 percent of Hoosiers say that job creation is the top priority for the legislature.
  • Hoosiers would be willing to pay more for some services, including fire protection and schools, but prefer cuts in service to new tax hikes for jails, parks and government operations.
  • Gov. Mitch Daniels' approval rating is at 58 percent, a slight increase over 2010, but the approval rating for the General Assembly dipped 10 points to 39 percent.

The Bowen Center partnered this year with Ball State's Global Health Institute to look at opinions about recent health care legislation and the delivery of health care services in Indiana.

The study found that Hoosiers do not look favorably upon the new federal health care reform law but they do like many of the provisions it ushers in, said Kerry Anne McGeary, director of the Global Health Institute and the Phyllis A. Miller professor of health economics.

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