Poll: Union approval at its highest level since 1965

The poll question is pretty basic: “Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?” The Gallup polling organization has been asking Americans that since 1936. In the latest poll results, announced Sept. 2, 68% of Americans said they approve of unions, 28% disapprove, and 4% had no opinion. That 68% approval is the highest mark since 1965, and continues the upward trend of recent years. 

Also continuing a recent trend: Union approval is highest among the youngest (ages 18 to 34)—14 percentage points higher than those ages 35 to 54, and a sign that union support may continue to grow in years to come.

Though unions had fully 43 percentage points more support from Democrats than from Republicans, approval has actually grown among supporters of both parties in the last 10 years. Since 2011, union approval has jumped from 78% to 90% among Democrats and from 26% to 47% among Republicans.

The poll found union support is also higher among non-whites (76%) than whites (64%).

Between 1936 and 1967, union approval averaged 68%. The record was set in 1953 and 1957 when 75% approved. Then from 1972 through 2016, support declined, with few polls showing over 60% approval. The all-time low of 48% was recorded in 2009, the only time approval dipped below a majority (though more still approved than disapproved). Approval has increased steadily since then, possibly because of growing concern about rampant economic inequality.  

The most recent poll was conducted Aug. 2-17, 2021, using telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,006 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.


WHO APPROVES OF UNIONS?

  • 90% of Democrats
  • 86% of union members
  • 77% of those aged 18-34 
  • 72% of those with annual household incomes under $40,000
  • 68% of Americans overall
  • 66% of Independents
  • 47% of Republicans

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