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Gov. Scott Walker has used surveys by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a key supporter of his, to make statements about how good business leaders feel about Wisconsin since he took office.
Some of the claims have been off the mark.
In February 2012, Walker said 94 percent of Wisconsin employers think the state "is heading in the right direction" and a majority say they will "grow their companies in 2012." We rated his statement Half True.
While the figures were cited correctly, they came from a relatively small Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey that was not reflective of the overall makeup of businesses in the state. Walker presented the figures without noting the critical limitations.
On May 30, 2014, the Wisconsin Republican Party issued a statement about unemployment that contrasted Walker with Mary Burke, the leading Democratic candidate in the November 2014 gubernatorial election. Burke served as state commerce secretary under Walker's predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle, for part of Doyle’s tenure.
The GOP’s claim:
"Under Walker, employer confidence now stands at 95 percent; at the end of the Doyle-Burke administration, employer confidence was only 10 percent."
The GOP's evidence
WMC said that from November through mid-December 2013, it sent surveys by mail and email to 1,291 chief executive officers who are WMC members, and that 341 (26 percent) responded.
The GOP said its claim centered on Question 21, which asked:
"Do you think things in Wisconsin are going in the right direction, or on the wrong track?"
The results: Right direction -- 95 percent; Wrong track -- 5 percent.
In contrast, in WMC’s June 2010 survey, the last done before Walker’s election, the figures were 10 percent "right direction," 90 percent "wrong track."
But Burke served as Doyle’s commerce secretary for less than three years of Doyle’s eight-year tenure, leaving the post in November 2007.
In WMC’s June 2007 survey, the final one before Burke left Commerce, 59 percent said things in Wisconsin were going in the right direction -- much greater than the 10 percent in the June 2010 survey.
Moreover, like Walker's claim, the GOP claim was broad and without any qualifications.
As stated, the claim suggests the overwhelmingly positive figures for Walker reflect the opinions of business leaders statewide.
But as we noted in our Walker factcheck, the survey respondents don’t match up well with Wisconsin’s statewide business profile.
A majority of survey respondents in the latest survey were chief executive officers of manufacturing businesses. But manufacturing establishments are just 6 percent of Wisconsin’s businesses. Similarly, WMC represents some small businesses, but half its 3,500 members have more than 50 employees.
On more specific questions, the results of the latest survey weren’t quite as positive for Walker. For example: 44 percent of the responding CEOs said they planned to add employees in the next six months; 65 percent said they expected moderate growth in the Wisconsin economy in the next six months and 2 percent expected good growth.
The state Republican Party said that under Walker, "employer confidence now stands at 95 percent," compared to "only 10 percent" at the end of the Doyle- Burke administration.
The statement contains an element of truth, in that 95 percent of chief executive officers who are members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and who responded to the latest WMC survey, agreed that "things in Wisconsin are going in the right direction" rather than "on the wrong track."
But the claim ignores critical facts in suggesting that the 95 percent figure applies to all Wisconsin employers, when in fact the CEOs responding to the survey are not a representative sample of all employers.
And although only 10 percent said the state was going in the right direction at the end of Doyle’s term in 2010, the rate was 51 percent in the survey done shortly before Burke left Commerce in 2007.
We rate the state GOP’s statement Mostly False.
Wisconsin Republican Party, "Unemployment in Wisconsin: A clear contrast between forward vs. backward," May 30, 2014
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Gov. Scott Walker says 94 percent of Wisconsin employers think the state is heading in the right direction," March 11, 2012
Email interview, Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Jesse Dougherty, June 9, 2014
Email interview, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce public relations director Jim Pugh, June 10, 2014
Interview, Marquette University professor of law and public policy and Marquette Law School Poll director Charles Franklin, June 10, 2014
Interview, St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute executive director David Wegge, June 11, 2014
Interview, University of Wisconsin Survey Center associate director John Stevenson, June 10, 2014
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, "WMC Economic Outlook Survey: Business Leaders More Optimistic About State Growth," Jan. 2, 2014
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, 2014 WMC Economic Outlook Survey results, January 2014
Email interview, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development communications director John Dipko, June 12, 2014
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