Pew: Unions approval rating plummets

posted at 9:30 am on February 24, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The SEIU’s Andy Stern may still get his weekly tete-a-tete with the President’s staff, and the industry he represents may share something in common with the President besides a radical agenda.  A new poll by Pew Research shows that the labor movement’s popularity among Americans has plummeted over the last three years.  In January 2007, unions had a favorability gap of 27 points with a solid majority (58%) approving of them.  Today, that advantage has entirely dissipated:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression.

The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 3-9 among 1,383 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that favorable opinions of unions have fallen across demographic and partisan groups. Still, far more Democrats have favorable views of unions (56%) than do independents (38%) or Republicans (29%).

Last year, a Pew Research survey found a decline in the proportion of the public saying labor unions are necessary to protect working people, while more expressed concern about the power of unions. In April 2009, 61% agreed with the statement “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” down from 68% in 2007 and 74% in 2003. In the same survey, six-in-ten (61%) agreed that “labor unions have too much power,” up from 52% in 1999.

Both Rasmussen and Gallup polled on this question last summer, and had remarkably similar results.  Gallup reported that support for unions had dropped below 50% for the first time in its 72-year history of surveying on the question.  Both polls showed a 48% support level for unions, still a plurality.  Pew’s is the first to show a negative gap, although it’s statistically a virtual tie.

As with the previous polls, the damage has been done with independents.  Three years ago, even Republicans gave a plurality for support, 47/45.  That has been wiped out in an 18-point drop in support, perhaps not unexpectedly considering the tight alliance now between the unions and Democrats.  However, unions had a 20-point margin of support among independents three years ago at 54/34; now it’s 38/46, a 28-point flip in the gap.

The number among Democrats should be cause for worry not just among union leaders, but also Democratic Party leaders as well.  Unions still enjoy a majority support, but it’s a lot lower than it had been three years ago.  They have gone from a 51-point gap (70/19) to a 30-point gap (56/26) in an era where unions have begun dictating the massive agenda of the party.  Similarly, among black voters (who would be overwhelmingly Democrats), favorability has dropped from 75/19 to 59/26.  This suggests that the marriage between Democrats and unions has begun to feel a lot more tension — and if the unions fall out of favor, so may the radical Democratic leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi.

Another ominous note is the performance among seniors.  These voters remember the heyday of unions, when they existed to actually protect workers from abuses.  Three years ago, seniors overwhelmingly approved of unions, 60/28.  Today, they overwhelmingly disapprove, 29/51.  The 31-point drop in approval is the worst among the demographics, and it represents a staggering 54-point reversal in the gap.

None of this should be terribly surprising.  As mentioned earlier, the unions have enjoyed remarkable access to Congress and the White House, and has been intimately involved in the Democratic agenda.  Not only have they twisted arms in remarkably public fashion to get themselves tax breaks in the ObamaCare bill, they’ve campaigned for the last couple of years to eliminate the secret ballot and allow for similar arm-twisting in workplaces across America to force workers to pay union dues.  They have become much more about themselves and the Democratic Party than about the workers, which is why the only people supporting them are Democrats — and even they have begun to have second thoughts.

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Are your union members productive because they are union members?
In any event, the government-employee unions are truly parasitic.

No, we are productive because the more we fly, the more money we make. I am an airline pilot.

Mike Morrissey on February 24, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Can someone explain the right to work issue to me. I thought it was one thing, but a liberal tells me it is something else. How does this affect the worker say, in Kentucky or Alabama or wherever right to work laws are in play?

NJ Red on February 24, 2010 at 9:50 AM

I’ll take a shot as I did not see a reply. Without a Right to Work law, certain vocations can require union membership. In WV for example, which is not a RTW state, all teachers ( state employees) must belong to a union. Thus part of their salary is diverted to pay union dues. They have no choice in this matter. If WV could pass a Right to Work law, the teachers could elect not to join the union. Needless to say, the unions oppose RTW. Yea, no RTW has been great for WV’s economy (sarc).

humdinger on February 24, 2010 at 12:29 PM

They deserve moreso than anyone to be in the same soup line Obama and the democrats have put us in.

May they all go B_R_O_K_E

bluegrass on February 24, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I purchased my first non-UAW car of my life, last year. I spent most of my life in support of unions, but that has changed. I will not support unions, because they support the leftist, collectivist agenda.

Star20 on February 24, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Seems like government employees should not be in unions. Would that include GM and Chrysler now?

Dasher on February 24, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Wait until people learn that unions have reserved representation on the regional federal reserve boards. That little tidbit usually sends people into a minor fury, wondering how the hell that ever happened.

neurosculptor on February 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Mike Morrissey: Thanks for your safe flying and for your productivity.

GaltBlvnAtty on February 24, 2010 at 1:52 PM

neurosculptor at 1:16
Yes, this is new to me. Is this a long-standing fact?

GaltBlvnAtty on February 24, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Unions have gone power mad. It isn’t enough that they try to help the little guy. Now they want to dictate to a president, and approve, or disapprove, and write legislation. I have no doubts they had a huge hand in inserting their ideas into Obamacare.

The are parasitic as someone else mentioned. I have no doubts, if they could…they’d glom onto Republicans, if they could achieve what they are, under Obama.

capejasmine on February 24, 2010 at 2:58 PM

The trouble isn’t the unions per se. Its politicians who are elected to guard the public purse who allow themselves to be purchased by the unions and they begin to act as union stewards instead.

chickasaw42 on February 24, 2010 at 7:34 PM

The trouble isn’t the unions per se. Its politicians who are elected to guard the public purse who allow themselves to be purchased by the unions and they begin to act as union stewards instead.

chickasaw42 on February 24, 2010 at 7:34 PM
– – – –
No difference, just democratic spin, SOS

bluegrass on February 25, 2010 at 12:28 PM

In Iowa, a RTW state, the Unions pushed a bill last year the “Fair Share” Bill. Basically non-Union workers would have to pay dues if they worked with Union workers. It Failed. A new Bill(new in name only) “Reasonable Reimbursement” pushed by Unions this year. We have to defend or RTW laws every year!

IowaWoman on February 27, 2010 at 7:59 PM