Why Union Membership Is Down but Favorability Is Up

InsideSources discusses labor union membership decline and public perceptions of labor unions with Trey Kovacs. 

“I think people like the perceptions and the history of unions more so than they want one,” Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar Trey Kovacs told InsideSources. “Young people, especially, want flexibility at the workplace. Well, a union is going to give you the exact opposite of that with a collective bargaining agreement.”

The increased union favorability may also reflect general economic conditions. The economy has made major gains in the past couple of years after an incredibly slow recovery. People may be willing to look at unions in a more positive light now that things are generally getting better.

“They kind of go in line with other similar powerful institutions like the government, and business community, or other institutions that the public perceives as having some sort of great influence over economic policy,” Kovacs said. “When the economy improved, union approval also increased.”

Union favorability may also hinge on how the question is worded, and how specific it is. A question asking someone if they like unions isn’t necessarily the same thing as asking if they want to join one. It’s also a very general question that may not reflect various nuances that could reveal how people actually view unions.

“When you ask more specific questions about unions, you see a more negative trend on how the public views them,” Kovacs said. “So I think when you get more in the weeds with specific questions, union favorability isn’t really as high as maybe just a general question.”

Kovacs adds that more specific questions about unions are likely to reveal more nuanced results. The Rasmussen Reports survey, for instance, found most people think union leaders are out of touch with their membership. It’s also important to understand that union approval is still fairly low compared to past public opinion.

Read the full article at InsideSources.