A recently released Gallup survey shows that only 52% of Americans approve of unions. Another 41% indicated that they disapproved of unions. The approval number is up from 2009, however, when only 48% approved of unions. The survey has asked the same question since 1936. This year's result was the second worst result for unions since the poll began, behind only last year's result.
The survey questioned 1,013 adults earlier this month. Interestingly, of those surveyed, 10% identiified themselves as union members. Another 6% reported that another member of their household belongs to a union.
It may be that union members were underrepresented in the survey. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.3% of Americans belonged to a union in 2009. If there were fewer union members surveyed than are actually in the population, the results may have been somewhat for favorable for unions. Union approval was higher for those who were already union members. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed who were already union members approved of unions. In non-union households, only 48% approved.
Opinion surveys like this one clearly help employers understand what Americans generally feel about unions. To be sure, employees in any particular workforce are likely to reflect generally the survey results. But labor relations professionals should keep in mind that union organizing drives usually begin with issues that are specific to a workplace. Examples include fairness, respect, and having a voice. Thus, it would be a mistake to read the Gallup results and conclude that the possibility of a union organizing drive at any given business is remote.