Public Opinion Shifts On Labor Unions Under Trump

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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The public’s view towards labor unions significantly improved in the months before President Donald Trump announced his presidential run, and a new survey confirms the trend is continuing.

Sixty percent of adults today have a favorable view of labor unions, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Monday. Public opinion towards labor unions have risen 12 percentage points since March, 2015, when just 48 percent of Americans had a favorable view towards labor unions.

President Trump’s campaign appealed to disaffected, rank-and file union members in the rust belt states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. While big labor bosses rushed to endorse former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, large swaths of working class voters were attracted to Trump’s message of “America First.” (RELATED: National Union Bosses Ignore Member Support For Trump, Endorse Clinton)

The president’s victory came in large part to his appeal to Reagan Democrats in places like Macomb County, Michigan, where a large swath of the population blames trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement for widespread economic decay.

A CNN exit poll following the 2016 election revealed that Trump carried 42 percent of voters in union households, compared to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 51 percent. Trump’s positive numbers with unions are unheard of for Republican candidates since Reagan. (RELATED: Rank and File Union Members Propel Trump To The White House)

The survey measured the American public’s view towards labor unions and corporations. Fifty-six percent of American adults had a positive view toward corporations, which is an 8 percent jump from March, 2015. According to the Pew survey, the public generally held a favorable view towards both labor unions and corporations during the early 2000s, but those views soured during the great recession.

The survey also found that 76 percent of Democrats hold a favorable view of unions, while 44 percent of Republicans said that they held a favorable view. On the other hand, 70 percent of Republicans expressed a positive opinion towards business corporations, while 46 percent of Democrats expressed a favorable opinion.

Young people are far more likely than older adults to view labor unions favorably, according to the survey, with about 75 percent of those ages 18 to 29 saying they view unions favorably. Fifty-three percent of those 50 years and older held a favorable view of unions.

Positive views of labor unions remained steady across education levels, with a dip among persons with a college degree, but without post-graduate education. A full 62 percent of Americans without a college degree had a favorable view of unions, while 52 percent of Americans with a college degree expressed favorable views.  Sixty-four percent of those with a post grad degree held a positive view of unions.

While big labor bosses struggle to reconcile with a new reality in Washington, rank-and-file union members have expressed their support for Trump. Pete Grusch, a United Auto Workers member and team leader at Ford Motor Company’s Wayne Assembly Plant, backed Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primary, but supported Trump in the general election. Grusch  told the Detroit News shortly before the election that, “neither the Democrats nor Republicans are for the working man,” adding that, “Trump gets it.”

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