American unions and their members have supported Democrats for decades. Democrats continue to be seen as champions of the blue-collar class, as well as lower-paid professions like teaching. Republicans still have the image as the party of the rich and greedy. This is reflected in White House efforts to increase taxes for those who make more than $250,000 a year and the Republican resistance against it.
Democrats will benefit from their role as friends of the American worker again this election. Gallup reports that:
A majority of union members say they would vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race, although their support is by no means monolithic. While 57% of union workers who are registered to vote would support Obama, 35% would vote for Mitt Romney. Workers who are not union members tilt toward Romney over Obama, 48% to 44%.
The perception that Democrats support labor more than Republicans do may be accurate. This has not kept union membership from falling off a cliff. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that union membership made up 20.1% of the U.S. workforce in 1983, but the figure fell to 11.8% last year. Some of the drop can be attributed to a decline in the number of workers in industries such as automotive manufacturing. Successful union-busting in other industries, led by newspapers, also caused the move downward.
Democrats may be the better defenders of labor’s rights. That has not kept organized labor from losing ground consistently.
Methodology: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking April 11 to June 5, 2012, with a random sample of 13,376 employed registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Douglas A. McIntyre