The polling firm Rasmussen offers some interesting data on the work effort of government employees compared to private-sector workers.
In five separate surveys this past year, Rasmussen asked a representative sample of American adults, “Who works harder?” The choices were government workers, private-sector employees, and “not sure.”
The table below averages the responses from all five surveys in order to make the results more robust. Respondents who were private-sector employees stated overwhelmingly (74 percent to 4 percent, with 22 percent not sure) that the private sector works harder.
More interestingly, however, a plurality of government employees themselves (48 percent to 21 percent, with 31 percent not sure) agree that the private sector works harder. (continued below)
Although polls like these can verify only Americans’ perception that the private sector works harder, the fact that even government employees seem to share that perception suggests that there is some truth to it.
The Rasmussen findings complement a recent Heritage Foundation report showing that government employees spend less time working than private-sector employees—about one month less per year on average.
That report uses an objective and comprehensive dataset called the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which tracks exactly what respondents are doing for an entire 24-hour period. The report includes the caveat that the ATUS measures work time—not necessarily work effort or work effectiveness—so the Rasmussen result on who appears to work harder helps to fill out the picture a little more.
We discussed the findings of our ATUS analysis in an op-ed in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.