Friday, June 12, 2009

Unions in North Carolina

Unions played an unprecedented role in North Carolina elections last year, particularly in helping Kay Hagan to defeat Elizabeth Dole. But a variety of recent polling in the state shows that they still aren't very popular with the state's voters.

The poll we released yesterday on the impact for candidates of receiving various endorsements showed union support as the most potentially harmful at the polls, with 50% of the respondents saying they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who was endorsed by a union. That compared unfavorably to other groups with sometimes controversial agendas including right wing religious organizations (43%), realtors (39%), the Sierra Club (37%), and Planned Parenthood (36%).

April's Elon Poll showed similar attitudes, finding 51% of North Carolinians with an unfavorable opinion of labor unions compared to 31% who had a favorable one. When respondents were asked generally whether they think unions or business are in the right when there's a dispute 47% said business and 26% said unions. And by a 50-36 margin they said unions have a negative impact rather than a positive one on the economy.

Hagan was attacked for her union support last fall, but it didn't seem to stick. It will be interesting to see if next year, in an election cycle where there's less clutter, this becomes a bigger issue. But one thing seems pretty clear at this point: North Carolinians aren't exactly pining for unionization, and for many elected officials there is a political risk in supporting efforts in that direction. The climate for labor in the state is surely better than it was a generation ago, but there is a long way to go.

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