March 3, 2011

Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High

Section 4: Opinions of Labor Unions

The ongoing demonstrations in Wisconsin over public worker benefits and collective bargaining rights have had little effect on overall views of labor unions. In the current survey, 47% hold a favorable view of labor unions, compared with 39% who have an unfavorable view. In early February – before the Wisconsin demonstrations – the balance of opinion was about the same (45% favorable, 41% unfavorable).

Deep partisan divisions remain on views of labor unions. Democrats hold a more favorable than unfavorable view of labor unions by nearly three-to-one (64% favorable, 22% unfavorable). By contrast, 58% of Republicans take an unfavorable view, while 32% view labor unions favorably. Independents are divided: 45% hold a favorable view, 42% an unfavorable view.

Liberals and Union Members Rally

While overall favorability ratings have remained stable, the percentage holding a very favorable view of labor unions – as opposed to a mostly favorable view – has risen seven points. This rise has come primarily from intensifying views among two groups: liberal Democrats and union households.

Overall, about as many liberal Democrats hold favorable views of unions now (65%) as did so in early February (64%). However, the percentage holding a very favorable view has ballooned: from just 14% in February to 32% today – an 18-point rise in opinion.

A similar pattern can be seen among union member households. The percentage expressing very favorable views of unions has spiked from 27% to 45%. As the intensity of support for labor unions has grown in union households, overall favorability has remained about the same (69% in February, 73% now).

There has been no corresponding shift in opinion among conservative Republicans or non-labor households. Very unfavorable views of labor are about the same as they were in February for these groups, as negative views of labor have become no more intense.