Saturday, December 6, 2014

Overlooking the obvious-2

The title for my last post was especially appropriate, since I overlooked the obvious question about the popularity of unions.  As Andrew Gelman pointed out in a comment, the Gallup poll has asked people "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions."  A figure can be found at the Gallup web site:  it shows a substantial decline in approval between the 1950s and late 1970s, and probably some decline between the late 1970s and now.

The question I looked at in my last post showed no clear change between 1952 and the 21st century, so I looked for additional questions on unions that covered a long period of time to see which way they pointed.    There are two questions that go back to the 1940s or 1950s--there is some variation in question wording, but they seem close enough to be roughly comparable

           Good   Bad   DK 
Taking it all in all, would you say unions are a good thing for the country, or a bad thing?
1945   75%   14%   11%  
And, do you think labor unions are good for the general public, or not?
1986   44%   46%   10%
Just in general, do you think labor unions today are good for America or bad for America?
1997   49%   34%  17%
2001   49%   32%  19%
2009   43%   46%  11%

          Agree   Disagree        DK 
Labor unions are very necessary to protect the workingman
1959   73%        15%             11%
Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person
1987   67%        27%               6%
1988   69%        26%               5%
1990   71%        25%               4%
1997   70%        27%               3%
1998   69%        30%               1%
1999   70%        25%               5%
2002   71%        26%               3%
2003   74%        23%               3%
2006   68%        28%               6%
2009   61%        34%               5%
2012   63%        32%               5%

There are also a substantial number of questions asking if people are favorable or unfavorable, but they don't start until the 1985.  I would characterize them as showing some increase in favorable views from the 1980s to the early 2000s and some decline since then, with no definite trend over the whole.  

Putting it together, it seems like there was a substantial decline in support for unions between the 1950s and the 1970s/1980s, some increase until the early 2000s, and some decline more recently.  Returning to my original question of whether unions are popular or unpopular, I'd still say that opinions are somewhat favorable, although not strongly so.

[Data from iPOLL, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

No comments:

Post a Comment