Favorability Ratings of Labor Unions Fall Sharply

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.

The findings about eroding public support for unions are consistent with other recent surveys. In August 2009, Gallup found that fewer than half of Americans (48%) approve of labor unions, an all-time low for a question that has been asked since 1936. In August 2008, 59% said they approved of labor unions.

Read the full report Favorability Ratings of Labor Unions Fall Sharply on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.

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