POLITICS
08/31/2016 06:26 pm ET

Americans Increasingly Believe Labor Unions Benefit The Economy

This is the most optimistic Americans have been about unions since 2006.
During the Great Recession, Americans believed labor unions mostly hurt the economy. Now a majority think unions help the eco
ASSOCIATED PRESS
During the Great Recession, Americans believed labor unions mostly hurt the economy. Now a majority think unions help the economy.

Americans’ perceptions of labor unions and their impact on the economy have reached a five-year peak.

According to a new Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans now believe unions help the U.S. economy, while 41 percent believe they hurt the economy.

This represents a 7-point rise since 2011 and it is the most positive Americans have been about the economic effects of unions since 2006, the year prior to the Great Recession. 

Between 2006 and 2009, Americans’ views on the economic benefits of labor unions dropped 14 points, reaching the lowest position in over a decade. This coincided with the failure of General Motors and Chrysler, two of the big three American auto companies, and the subsequent government bailout.

Since then, the opinion of unions has been steadily improving and has nearly recovered to levels seen prior to the Great Recession.

Perceptions have improved across party lines, though among Republicans they have improved the least.

All in all, Americans are positive about other effects of labor unions. Seventy percent think unions help members of the union and 55 percent believe they help companies where workers are unionized. And overall approval of labor unions is at 56 percent, a 2-point drop from last year, when approval reached a six-year peak. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, union membership among men in the private sector dropped from 34 percent in 1979 to just 10 percent in 2013. Among women, unionization has dropped from 16 to 6 percent in the same time period. A study released on Tuesday by the EPI points to declining union membership as one cause of wage stagnation among all Americans. 

But while union membership overall has been declining for decades, it has seen a growth in the digital media industry. Several big media companies, including The Huffington Post, have unionized in the last couple of years.

Gallup surveyed 1,032 American adults via live calls to landlines and cell phones on August 3-7, 2016. 

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