Chart shows percentage of public support for unions over the years.
WASHINGTON —Public support for unions has hit its highest point since 1965, the Gallup Organization’s annual poll says, as respondents approve of unions by a 71%-26% margin, with the rest undecided.
That ties the 1965 figure of 71% support, Gallup reported. Then, 19% of the public opposed unions, with the rest undecided. The all-time records in the union support-opposition poll, which started in 1936, were 75%-18% in 1953 and 75%-14% in the first of three surveys in 1957. The rest of the respondents were undecided.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler lauded the results, which she said reflect the facts on the ground, in increased enthusiasm and organizing. That’s been especially true among low-wage exploited workers.
“After a year of victorious strikes, record union election filings and relentless efforts from corporate billionaires to silence workers, today comes as no surprise. Working people recognize the need for a collective voice—and it shows. We are stronger in a union,” Shuler declared.
The 71% support, plus or minus a percentage point or two, held across the board among men and women and by race. The variations came in party preference.
Democrats supported unions by an 89%-10% margin while Republicans were at 58%-42%. Independents were close to the overall figures (68%-28%). Even self-described conservatives backed unions, 54%-44%, Gallup reported.
The high support comes despite low union density. Gallup reported that 16% of respondents were either union members (6%) or had a family member unionist (7%) or both were (3%). Gallup’s surveyors called 1,006 people by phone and the top-line 71% support figure is subject to a 4% plus-or-minus error.
“Better pay and benefits” was the top reason (65%) unionists gave for joining up, followed by worker rights and representation (57%), job security (42%), better pensions and retirement benefits (34%), a better work environment (25%), fairness and equality at work (23%) and health and safety protections (9%). Only one in 20 unionists cited “unions having a positive effect on the country.
There was one warning flag for union organizers, but not in the top-line union approval poll: Some 58% of the un-organized don’t want to be union members. That figure conflicts with other surveys the AFL-CIO has cited in the past. By contrast, in this survey, one of every nine of those unorganized workers told surveyors they are “extremely interested” in joining unions.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.
This article was republished from People's World.