Do Americans think labor unions are making a comeback?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
September 22, 2022, 1:10 PM GMT+0

A strike among American railroad workers seeking access to paid sick leave was narrowly averted last week, putting labor unions in the news in recent weeks. Recent polling by the Economist and YouGov shows that 54% of Americans hold at least a somewhat favorable view of labor unions; only 30% view them negatively. While Americans are more likely to believe unions have lost rather than gained power over the past 30 years, there is some evidence of a perceived rebound in their influence over the past year (a finding consistent with data on union elections from the National Labor Relations Board): 31% say unions have gotten stronger in the last year, while only 17% say their power has declined.

Recent events appear to have shifted Americans' perceptions of unions. Since YouGov asked about their change in influence in the past three decades less than a month ago, the share who say they've become stronger has increased by 6 percentage points. Looking toward the future, more expect unions' influence to increase (31%) than to stay the same (24%) or decrease (18%). Compared to last month, the share who anticipate that unions will strengthen has increased by 5 points. Despite President Biden's intervention which helped to avert the railroad strike, Americans are divided on his handling of unions: 36% approve and 35% disapprove.

– Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on September 17 - 20, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.

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