Unions Suffer Historically Low Support From Americans
At a time when state worker unions are under assault by Republican legislators in Wisconsin, when states and municipalities are resorting to drastic budget cutting, and amid epidemic levels of unemployment, just 45 percent of respondents expressed a positive view of labor unions in a Pew Research Center poll.
That's about the lowest level in a quarter-century.
Oddly enough, just over half of Americans believe unions do have a positive effect on workers' salaries and benefits, and that they improve conditions for all American workers -- much stronger numbers than the 17 percent who say they have a negative effect, according to the poll.
That ambivalence could be seen in another recent Pew survey, which indicated that in order to balance state budgets, Americans would prefer to reduce the pension plans of state employees over raising taxes or cutting other programs, but that support for such a move was only at 47 percent.
And when asked about disputes between unions and government, 44 percent would side with unions without hearing more details about the dispute, and 38 percent would side with the government.
It's a slightly different story in the private sector.
Just 40 percent of poll respondents said they would side with unions against business, while 43 percent said they would back the employers.
In general, 47 percent of Americans have a favorable view of business, while 45 percent do not -- a considerable evolution from before the 2008-2009 financial crisis. In January 2007, business enjoyed a 57 percent favorability rating among Americans.
The poll was conducted Feb. 2-7 among 1,385 adults and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.