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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