Gallup Poll Finds Big Upswing in Union Support; Women, Young People Most Enthusiastic


A recent Gallup poll shows that America’s support for labor unions has jumped 5 percent in the past year, bringing it to 58 percent. This is the highest such figure since 2008 when 59 percent approved. 

The poll was conducted between August 5th and 9th and is part of Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey.  The numbers show an improving image of unions which had reached an all-time low in 2009 after the government bailout of the big three auto companies.

Gallup first asked Americans about support for unions in 1936 after Congress legalized private sector unions and collective bargaining.  At the time, 72 percent of Americans approved of unions. Support remained high before dipping in the 70’s, reaching a low of 55 percent in 1979.  Approval fluctuated in the upcoming decades, reaching as high as 66 percent in 1999 and as low as 48 percent just 10 years later.  

The poll also shows that a growing number of Americans would like to see unions have more influence in the country. That number is up to 37 percent compared to 25 percent in 2009.  During the same period, the percentage of Americans wanting unions to have less influence in the country has declined from 42 percent to 35 percent.  

A breakdown of the numbers along demographics shows a few interesting trends.  Women approve of unions more than men (63 to 52).  Women also want more union influence (41 to 33). Considering the struggle to make wages and work conditions equitable between the sexes, this makes perfect sense. 

Not surprisingly, the South is the only region where more people disapprove of unions than approve.  Encouragingly, the 18-34 age group shows the most enthusiasm about unionism.  Along party lines, 79 percent of Democrats approved of unions and 55 percent wanted them to have more influence.  Roughly half of Republicans support unions, but only 18 percent want to see them have more influence.

Gallup also broke down exactly who belongs to unions, by region and demographics:

Approximately one in eight working adults in the U.S. (12%) belong to a labor union, equivalent to 8% of all Americans. More broadly, 17% of Americans live in a household where at least one person belongs to a union. But, notably, this varies markedly by region, with just 6% of adults in the South living in a union household, compared with 18% in the West and roughly a quarter in the East (24%) and Midwest (23%). Membership is also higher among nonwhites (24%) than whites (13%), and among Democrats (24%) than Republicans and independents (13% each). There are smaller differences by gender, and almost none by age.

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