Americans generally hold a favorable view of labor unions, despite declining membership rates, according to a new poll.
Labor unions are designed to help workers negotiate with employers through collective action. Their membership rates, however, have been in decline over the decades as the national workforce has changed. The Pew Research Center found union favorability has been on the rise and now sits at 60 percent.
“About six-in-ten adults today have a favorable view of labor unions,” the analysis stated. “The public’s opinions of corporations and unions were largely positive throughout the early 2000s, but turned more negative during the Great Recession. Today, favorable opinions of each are at their highest levels in nearly a decade.”
The poll also found that corporations are generally viewed favorably, as well, but at only 56 percent. Public opinion for both unions and corporations has grown from 48 percent since March 2015. Democrats are far more likely to hold a favorable view of labor unions.
“Republicans and Democrats have long been divided in their views of labor and business, and that remains the case today,” the poll stated. “Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are much more favorable toward labor unions than business corporations, while the inverse is true for Republicans and Republican leaners.”
Democrats polled reported a 76 percent favorable view of labor unions. Republicans only hold a 44 percent favorable view of unions. Younger adults and lower income earners are also more likely to have a favorable view of labor unions compared with corporations.
“Households earning less than $30,000 a year also are more favorable toward labor unions than business corporations,” the poll stated. “There are no significant demographic differences among Democrats in views of labor unions, but Republicans are divided along age, educational and ideological lines.”
Nevertheless, the improving labor union favorability doesn’t seem to be translating to membership rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday that union membership hit a record low last year at 10.7 percent. The record low rate follows decades of decline.
Former President Barack Obama worked to reverse the trend when he was in office. He argued numerous times that unions are critical to protecting workers. His administration implemented many regulations to help bolster the number of unionized workers but the trend continued.
Some opposed to his workplace agenda have contested it helped unions at the expense of workers. President Donald Trump has not been as welcoming to labor unions despite building his platform around workers. His promises aim more at helping workers through overall economic expansion and protectionism.