An analysis of emails sent to Gov. Scott Walker in response to his "budget repair bill" suggests that they did largely support his plan to gut public employees' collective bargaining rights. However, a significant number of these emails came from outside Wisconsin.
Walker had claimed at a press conference on Feb. 17 that his office had gotten "over 8,000 emails" since announcing the plan on Feb. 11 and that "the majority are telling us to stay firm, stay strong, to stand with the taxpayers."
Ultimately, more than 50,000 emails were received by Walker's office in the week after he announced his plan, most of them related to the issue. They were released on Friday in response to an open records lawsuit brought by Isthmus and the Wisconsin Associated Press in Dane County Circuit Court. A settlement reached earlier in the week required the governor to produce the emails and pay over $7,000 for the plaintiffs' legal fees.
At Isthmus' request, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism analyzed a computer-generated random sample of 1,910 of the emails (samples), categorizing each as for the bill, against the bill, unclear or unrelated.
Of the emails related to the bill, 62% supported it, while 32% opposed it. The margin of error for the Center's sample size is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Those percentages confirm Walker's assertion that most of the emails were supportive of his plan.
The Center found that out-of-state emailers supported Walker 85% to 15%. The supportive emails came from at least 45 states and the District of Columbia, and four countries. Of the 1,493 emails on the bill where the sender's location was apparent, a third of Walker's support came from outside the state.
When the Center looked only at emails from Wisconsin, the margin was much slimmer, with 55% favoring his bill and 42% opposed. And 89% of the emails against Walker came from Wisconsinites.
Isthmus and the Wisconsin Associated Press had both requested the emails on Feb. 18. Walker's office didn't respond to the request or to follow-up emails. On March 4, Isthmus and the AP filed a lawsuit against the governor over his office's failure to respond to the open records requests. On March 16, the office agreed to the settlement.