Can You Believe Union Polls?


In its desperation to build a case for the ironically named "Employee Free Choice Act" that would deny working Americans a secret ballot vote on union representation, the AFL-CIO claims that “more than half of workers who don’t already have a union say they’d join one tomorrow if given the chance.”

An AFL-CIO "Issue Brief" dated September 2005 says, “According to a February 2005 Peter D. Hart Research Associates poll, 53 percent of America’s nonunion workers – in other words, 57 million workers – want a union in their workplace.26” The footnote refers to “Peter D. Hart Research Associates Study No. 7518, AFL-CIO Union Message Survey, February 2005 (unpublished).”

There is substantial reason to believe that this figure is not correct.  In November 1984 the AFL-CIO commissioned Louis Harris and Associates to conduct “A Study on the Outlook for Trade Union Organizing.”  That study asked “If an election were held tomorrow to decide whether your workplace would be unionized or not, do you think you would definitely vote for a union, probably vote for a union, probably vote against a union, or definitely vote against a union?”  The results were 10.3 percent definitely for, 20.0 percent probably for, 27.7 percent probably against, and 37.3 percent definitely against.

That same Harris study found that of those employees who have "worked in a place where a union existed" but were now working non-union 73 percent said that they would "prefer a non-union than union place to work." That's tells you something about the unions' numbers. A greater percent of employees who had experience with a union were opposed to unionizing than those who didn't.

A poll conducted by Zogby International for the Public Service Research Foundation in June 2005 replicated that question and found 16 percent definitely for, 20 percent probably for, 18 percent probably against, and 38 percent definitely against.  The sample of that poll was only employed people.  There were 802 interviews and a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percent. The complete report on that poll, including the methodology, has been published and is available online.

There is further evidence that the Hart figures are not correct.  In September 1999 the Gallup Poll asked, “Would you personally like to belong to a labor union at work, or not?” Only 20.96 percent said “Yes” while 75.99 percent said ‘No.” The rest were undecided or refused to answer.

A Zogby poll conducted for the Public Service Research Foundation in August 2006 asked, “Would you personally like to be a member of a labor union?”  Only 19.8 percent said “Yes” while 74.0 percent said “No.”

The AFL-CIO also has a problem being honest about the number of employees who are fired or disciplined for union activity during an organizing campaign. For more information on this take a look at "Labor Union Numbers Game."


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