Labor Union Approval Best Since 2003, at 61%
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009.
Unions have regained popularity since bottoming out at the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009. That survey marked the first and only time in Gallup's trend dating back to 1936 that support for unions was below 50%.
Historically, unions have enjoyed strong support from the American public. In 1936, 72% of Americans approved of labor unions. Union approval peaked in the 1950s when it reached 75% in 1953 and 1957. Approval remained in the 60% range throughout the 2000s, right up to the election of Barack Obama as president. After plummeting in 2009, union approval remained lower than in its heyday but began climbing.
Eighty-one percent of Democrats approve of unions this year -- significantly higher than the 42% of Republicans who approve. This disparity is not as stark as it was in 2011 when Republican approval was 26% and Democratic approval was 78%. Democratic approval of unions has been fairly steady over time, while the approval levels of independents and Republicans have fluctuated.
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Pew Research Center
More Americans view long-term decline in union membership negatively than positively
The number of Americans represented by labor unions has decreased substantially since the 1950s, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the decline is seen more negatively than positively by U.S. adults. The survey also finds that 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions, with about as many (53%) viewing business corporations favorably.
In 2017, just 10.7% of wage and salaried workers in the United States were members of labor unions, down from 20.1% in 1983 (the first year for which comparable data are available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionization in the U.S. peaked at more than 34% in 1954, according to the Congressional Research Service.
About half of Americans (51%) say the large reduction in union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the U.S., while 35% say it has been mostly good, according to the Center’s survey, which was conducted in April and May. Views about the impact of diminished union membership are little changed from 2015.
Partisanship has long been a major factor in public attitudes about labor unions. In the new survey, 68% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the reduction in union membership has been mostly bad for working people; half as many Republicans and Republican leaners (34%) say the same.
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