Carolyn Kaster/AP

Poll: Obama leads Romney among government workers

Results could reflect Romney’s comments about cutting federal pay, benefits and jobs.

Government employees prefer President Obama to Republican rival Mitt Romney in the November election, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-four percent of respondents who identified themselves as government employees favor giving Obama a second term, compared to 37 percent who say they plan to vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Rasmussen Reports conducted the national telephone survey in August of 7,000 likely U.S. voters, which included 815 government workers. Rasmussen did not differentiate between local, state and federal employees in the survey, asking respondents only if they worked for the government or a government agency.

Of the public sector respondents, 55 percent approve of the job Obama is doing as commander-in-chief, while 43 percent disapprove.

In contrast, self-employed workers favored Romney. Fifty-six percent of the 1,040 entrepreneurs surveyed would pick Romney compared to 36 percent for Obama. Of that group, 59 percent disapprove of Obama’s performance as president, while 39 percent give him a thumbs-up.

The survey could reflect how public workers have perceived Romney’s comments about the government workforce on the campaign trail. The GOP candidate told Fortune magazine in an Aug. 2 interview that he wants to tie the pay and benefits of federal workers to compensation packages in the private sector, which he says would save $47 billion annually. “I don’t think government workers should be paid a better deal than taxpayers who are paying for them,” he said.

On his campaign website, Romney argues federal compensation exceeds private sector compensation “by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account. This must be corrected.” In July, the Obama campaign blasted the Romney camp for the proposal, saying the GOP candidate wanted to cut feds’ pay by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent. The Romney campaign disputed that characterization, saying reductions to benefits such as health care and student loan repayments would be on the table as well as pay. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has called for extending the federal pay freeze, requiring government workers to pay more for retirement benefits and shrinking the federal workforce through attrition.

Obama supports a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2013. But he also supported the two-year civilian pay freeze for feds that began in 2011, and wants federal workers to pay more for their pensions.

The Rasmussen survey also found that 61 percent of government workers believe the federal government has “become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests,” compared to 74 percent of self-employed respondents. “Sixty-seven percent of all voters believe government and big business work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors. Only 14 percent disagree. On this point, entrepreneurs and government employees hold similar views,” the report said.

Fifty-nine percent of government employees say they trust the judgment of the American people over political leaders, compared to 70 percent of entrepreneurs who hold that view. Government workers also are slightly more optimistic about the direction the country is headed compared to the self-employed. Thirty-six percent of public-sector respondents say the country is on the right track, compared to 26 percent of entrepreneurs. But both groups are worried: 55 percent of government workers think America is on the wrong track, compared with 70 percent of entrepreneurs with that view.

NEXT STORY: Congressional pay raise in 2013?