Poll: Half of Americans like labor unions, while job satisfaction rises from recession low

     City union workers are shown rallying at Philadelphia City Hall in 2013. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

    City union workers are shown rallying at Philadelphia City Hall in 2013. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

    This Labor Day marks the 120th national celebration of the American labor movement, dedicated to the social and economic contributions and achievements of workers. Gallup has asked Americans about labor unions since 1936. Some 78 years later, how have opinions of labor unions changed?

    Back then, 72 percent of respondents approved of unions. The number has gone up and down through the years, says Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport, and it has settled at around 53 percent today. By far the biggest influencer of approval is politics: 75 percent of Democrats approve of labor unions, while 32 percent of Republicans approve.

    Are workers more or less satisfied with their jobs today? Americans’ sense of job security took a dive after 2009, said Newport, but it has popped back up. Today Gallup reports about 58 percent of Americans are satisfied with job security. Satisfied or not, pollsters say we find that workers are happiest on Friday and Saturdays, and least happy Monday through Thursday.

    This time of year is when schools traditionally start up around the nation, calling attention to the famous and fascinating public opinion phenomenon the “optimism gap” — wherein Americans tend to be negative about the state of schools across the country, while parents are very satisfied with the education their children are getting. About 48 percent are satisfied with education in the country in general, while 75 percent are satisfied with the education of their K-12 kids.

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    This “optimism” gap extends to many other facets of life, including healthcare, crime and politics, with adults prefering the situation at home over the situation “out there” in the rest of the country.

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