Poll finds mixed opinion about organized labor

A Pew Research Center survey found 45 percent of adults view organized labor positively, as opposed to 41 percent who hold a negative opinion. Those figures are about on par with the public’s thoughts on corporations (47 percent favorable, 45 percent negative) but also were a sharp decline from the esteem unions were held in just four years ago.

The Pew poll was conducted earlier this month and released Thursday, as a budget battle in Wisconsin pitted the state’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, against Democrats and unionized state employees. GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also paying attention to public employees, introducing legislation this month barring any federal bailout for states that can’t pay out what they owe in pensions. 

In a January 2007 Pew poll, unions enjoyed widespread popularity, with 58 percent of adults holding a favorable opinion of them. 

But now, a plurality of adults believes unions hurt American companies ability to compete and are split over their effect on jobs and workplace productivity. Generally speaking, however, the poll’s respondents believe unions help their workers’ pay and have a positive effect on workplace conditions.