Heading into Labor Day weekend, a majority of Americans, 54%, approve of labor unions, a slight increase from 52% in 2012 and six percentage points above the all-time low observed in 2009. Thirty-nine percent disapprove of labor unions.
The current reading is eight points below the historical average of 62% in Gallup's trend dating back to 1936.
Americans' approval of labor unions has declined precipitously since Gallup first asked this question, when 72% said they approved. Labor union approval reached an all-time high of 75% in 1953 and 1957, remained above 60% through the end of the 1960s, and then dipped a bit during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and most of the 2000s. Approval fell to an all-time low of 48% in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. This drop may have been a backlash against a Democratic administration that some feared would overly empower labor unions.
Since then, labor union approval has remained at bare majority levels.
Union approval is a classic partisan issue. Relatively few Republicans (34%) approve of labor organizations, while three-quarters of Democrats (75%) do. Americans living in the South, the region with the least labor union presence, are less likely to approve of labor unions (47%) than are those living in other regions.