Who do Americans think has more leverage: workers or employers?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
February 15, 2022, 8:51 PM GMT+0

American workers are feeling increasingly empowered as the U.S. labor market has tightened over the past year. Findings from a recent Economist/YouGov Poll show that many employed Americans feel they have little leverage to negotiate their working conditions, yet also believe the bargaining power of workers has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We asked Americans how much power workers and employers have in today’s labor market, and found that people tend to say that employers hold more power than workers. One in five Americans say that workers have a great deal or a lot of power in the labor market, compared to 43% who say the same about employers. Americans are twice as likely to say that workers have no power at all (14%) than they are to say employers have no power at all (6%).

While many feel that workers lack leverage relative to employers, 47% of Americans also say that the bargaining power of workers has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 18% of people say that the bargaining power of employers has increased relative to that of workers. One in three Americans say the pandemic has had no effect on bargaining power.

When it comes to negotiating their own working conditions, 26% of American workers say they have “a great deal” or “a lot” of leverage, while 31% say they have “a moderate amount” of leverage, and 43% say they have “a little” or “no” leverage. Men are somewhat more likely than women to say they have “a lot” of leverage (20% vs 12%). Workers under 30 are less likely to say they have “a lot” of leverage compared to those 30 and older. Somewhat surprisingly, workers with a college degree say they have roughly the same amount of leverage as workers without a college degree.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between February 5 and February 8, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.