Although union membership has declined in recent years, Americans still like unions. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll labor unions are seen favorably by 47 percent of the public, with 33 percent unfavorable. That unfavorable percentage includes a majority (52%) of Republicans. Unlike Democrats and Independents, who would reflexively side with labor when asked to choose in general, Republicans are more likely to say their sympathies are with management.
There is a real-world context today for measuring support for labor, the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors, a strike that has already lasted more than four weeks, but may be nearing its conclusion. Opinions about that strike mirror those seen in the labor vs. management question. By 44 percent to 19 percent, Americans side with the union in this strike.
Those living in union households are even more pro-UAW. More than half (54%) of them side with the union and nearly a quarter (23%) side with General Motors.
That doesn’t mean Americans don’t like General Motors. On the contrary, they do, 44 percent to 30 percent. Both Democrats and Republicans have a favorable opinion of GM, as do union households. Six in 10 (60%) of those in union households have a favorable opinion of GM, while 35 percent are unfavorable.
The issue in this strike that may have affected respondents the most is the withholding of strikers’ medical benefits by General Motors. Half the country disapproves of that action, and only a third approve.
This is especially a concern for those in union households. One-third (31%) in union households approve of the GM action, and half (55%) disapprove. It’s important to note that union households are not politically monolithic. Though 41 percent of the people in union households call themselves Democrats, one-quarter (27%) say they are Republicans.
By 46 percent to 31 percent, Americans believe GM should be required to pay for health benefits for the striking workers. Republicans disapprove of this. More than half of Republicans (53%) say General Motors should not be required to provide health insurance.