Public Employee Labor Unions Lose Support among Midwesterners

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Monmouth College Poll Suggests Changing Attitudes towards Unions, Clout and the “Midwest Work Ethic”

“But the more important elections may be in 2014, when several Republican governors who initiated anti-union legislation will be seeking reelection.”

•    Midwesterners still pro-union, but less sympathetic towards public employee unions

  •     Support for collective bargaining rights of public employee unions remains high
  •     Results sharply divided along partisan lines

While most Midwesterners still support the concept of labor unions, they are less sympathetic to public employee labor collectives, according to a new Monmouth College poll.

The poll, which sampled the opinions of 500 registered voters in eight Midwest states, indicated that residents of America’s heartland believe public workers are generally better compensated than their counterparts in the private sector and that their unions have too much influence over elected officials.

Another major finding of the college’s second annual opinion poll on Midwest attitudes is that Midwesterners generally oppose measures designed to rescind collective bargaining rights and enact right-to-work laws. Those two initiatives, successfully advanced by Republican governors in the Midwest, set off a firestorm of political rancor and set the stage for the region to be the deciding battleground in the 2012 presidential election.

In a reflection of the political polarization in the nation, opinions were sharply divided by party affiliation. Gender, income, education and age influenced other variations.

“The results are significant for both the future of work and the union movement coming into the 2012 presidential election,” said Monmouth College political science faculty member Robin Johnson, who authored the poll. “But the more important elections may be in 2014, when several Republican governors who initiated anti-union legislation will be seeking reelection.”

Random calls were made to voters in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The Monmouth College/Midwest Matters survey has a margin of error of +/-4.38 percent.

Other key findings include:

  •     Midwesterners think that the nation and region are still headed in the wrong direction although there is some improvement from the first Monmouth poll taken one year ago.
  •     Most Midwesterners still believe people can succeed through hard work, but feel few Americans are willing to do so
  •     Midwesterners mostly believe the economic health of the region is poor, although more believe economic conditions are improving compared to last year.
  •     By a three-to-one margin, Midwesterners think public employees receive better compensation than private sector employees.
  •     Unemployment is still the leading issue of importance in the Midwest, although opinion is divided on whether the economy will be able to produce good jobs for American workers.

About the Midwest Matters Initiative
Launched in 2009, Monmouth College’s Midwest Matters initiative seeks to contribute an academic voice to the conversation about the revitalization of the Midwest region within an increasingly globalized world. Activities include symposia political forums, scholarly publications, polls, grant writing, academic courses and exhibits.

About Monmouth College
Founded in 1853, Monmouth College is a nationally-ranked private liberal arts institution of 1,300 students in western Illinois. A founding member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest consortium, Monmouth College has a state-of-the-art campus that has undergone more than $50 million in improvements over the last decade. An innovative $40 million Center for Science and Business will open in the fall of 2013. Monmouth is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and honors its Scotch-Irish roots with an award-winning bagpipe band.
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Cassi Steurer

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