Most Americans oppose laws that would take away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, as in a proposal in Wisconsin that has sparked mass protests, as well as Ohio and other states, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll released on Wednesday.

The poll found that 61 percent of respondents would oppose a law in their state similar to one in Wisconsin, compared with 33 percent who would favor such a law.

Americans about evenly split over reducing or eliminating government programs, with 48 percent opposing such cuts while 47 percent favored them, the poll found.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has said he wants public union members to pay more for healthcare and pension benefits, to address a $3.6 billion budget deficit over the next two years.

Union leaders have said they would accept the cuts but object to Walker's additional move to limit collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin has become the flashpoint for a U.S. struggle over efforts to roll back pay, benefits and bargaining rights of government workers. If the majority Republicans prevail, several other states could be buoyed in efforts to take on the powerful public unions.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Peter Bohan)