Most Americans continue to say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the United States. Most Americans also say the long-term decrease in the percentage of workers represented by unions is bad for working people in the U.S., and for the country, according to recent Pew Research Center surveys.
As of July, 55% of U.S. adults say labor unions have a positive effect in the U.S., unchanged from August 2019, the last time the Center asked this question. While the overall figure has remained the same, Democrats have become more likely – and Republicans less likely – to say unions have a positive effect. (Covid Labor Day 7 September 2020 Sees a Sick Economy)
Around three-quarters of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party (74%) now say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, up from 66% in August 2019. The share of Republicans and GOP leaners who say unions have a positive effect has fallen from 44% to 34% during that span. Democrats and Republicans have diverged in their views of several other institutions since 2019, as well Pew notes.
Younger adults see unions more positively than older Americans. For example, while 69% of those ages 18 to 29 say unions have a positive effect, fewer than half (44%) of Americans ages 65 and older say the same.
The percentage of American workers who belong to a labor union has declined in recent decades, despite a slight uptick last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 10.8% of wage and salary workers ages 16 and older belonged to a labor union, down from 13.4% in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Six-in-ten U.S. adults say the large reduction in the percentage of workers represented by unions over the past several decades has been very or somewhat bad for working people, while a similar share (56%) say it has been very or somewhat bad for the country, according to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey.
“Among Republicans, attitudes about the long-term decline in unionization in the U.S. differ by demographic factors including age, education and income. While 72% of Republicans with higher incomes say the decline in unionization has been very or somewhat good for working people, fewer middle-income Republicans (55%) and Republicans with lower incomes (45%) share this view,” said John Gramlich at Pew Research Center.