June 17, 2024

Economix Blog: A Challenge for Unions in Public Opinion

A new Gallup poll has found that a slim majority of Americans, 52 percent, approve of labor unions and that the difference in views between how Democrats and Republicans feel toward unions has reached record levels.

The Gallup poll, released on Thursday, found that the approval rate for unions was unchanged from 2010 and was up from 2009, when unions had the lowest approval rating, 48 percent, since Gallup began this survey in 1936.


Showing a huge partisan difference in views, the poll of 1,008 adults found that 78 percent of Democrats approve of unions, while just 26 percent of Republicans do, the lowest percentage ever for Republicans.

Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup’s managing editor, wrote, “This could reflect a greater politicization of union issues given the fact that many state-level efforts to curb union influence were promoted by Republican governors often backed by a Republican-controlled legislature.”

After Republicans swept to power in many states last November, the Republican governors of several states, most notably Wisconsin and Ohio, moved to curb collective bargaining by public-employee unions, an effort that generated huge resistance from labor unions and Democrats.

Mr. Jones wrote that the huge debate over union rights this year “seems to have resulted in a draw in the court of public opinion, with labor unions neither gaining nor losing Americans’ support overall compared with last year.”

The Gallup poll found a strong rebound of Democrats’ and independents’ views toward unions over the last two years. Approval among Democrats rose to 78 percent from 66 percent in 2009, and to 52 percent from 44 percent among independents. For Republicans, the approval rating was 26 percent this year, down from 34 percent last year (and 29 percent in 2009).

This year’s poll found that 52 percent of Americans approved of unions and 42 percent disapproved. (The survey was conducted Aug. 11 to 14 with 95 percent confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.)

When the overall approval rating for unions fell to its lowest level ever in 2009, many labor relations said that was because many Americans believed that labor unions could be too stubborn and demanding and were a major cause of the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies that year. Union leaders maintain that a major reason for the overall decline in approval ratings in recent years — the approval rate was 65 percent less than a decade ago — is that conservative politicians and think tanks have been putting out a flood of negative information about organized labor.

Business groups say labor’s approval ratings have slid from decades past because many Americans feel they have good wages and benefits and no longer see a need for unions.

Labor leaders acknowledge that one of their biggest challenges is to figure out how to make Americans more enthusiastic about unions and unionizing at a time when many workers face stagnating wages, rising insecurity on the job and employers’ cutting back on pensions and other benefits — all while corporate profits have been quite strong.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ef1fd2af70f1f9cb116e96761e5eb2dd

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