Ahead of Labor Day, one in three members of union households say unions have lost power

September 03, 2021, 5:42 PM UTC

Ahead of Labor Day, unions have widespread favorability, but an uncertain outlook for future growth. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, just under half of Americans (49%) say they have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of labor unions, more than the 30% who view them unfavorably.

Opinions on labor unions vary dramatically between the political parties. Among Republicans, 28% have favorable views of unions and 49% view them unfavorably. Those percentages are 62% and 12% among Democrats.

Not surprisingly, union members and members of their households have positive opinions about unions. Two in three people (67%) who are union members or live with union members have a favorable view of unions, while one in four (24%) have unfavorable views. 

There is agreement across parties that unions are no stronger than they were 30 years ago, although views on the extent of unions’ decline differ. Among Republicans, 22% think unions are stronger today than 30 years ago; 25% think they are less powerful and 23% think labor’s influence hasn’t changed much. Among Democrats, 17% think unions have gained power, 43% think they’ve lost power and 21% say unions’ power is largely unchanged. In union households, just 21% think unions have strengthened while 34% think they’ve grown less powerful and 32% don’t see much change.

Among people up for forecasting union strength, Democrats are more likely to predict a strengthening than a weakening of unions. More than one in four Democrats (27%) expect unions to gain influence, while 21% expect unions’ influence to wane. Twice as many Republicans expect unions’ influence to fall (26%) as expect their influence to rise (13%). Union members and their households are divided: 29% expect an increase in influence for unions while 24% expect a decrease.

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 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between August 28 - 31, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.0% for the overall sample. 

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