Why the Public Is Siding With the UAW Over the Automakers
53% of U.S. adults support the auto strike, compared with 22% who oppose it.
While 36% of U.S. adults say the labor union is asking for too much, slightly more say it’s an appropriate amount or too little.
Roughly 3 in 5 Americans say worker pay should increase whenever CEO compensation does, and that companies should provide strong worker protections even if it means higher costs for consumers.
Public awareness of the United Auto Workers’ activities is also growing: 60% of Americans say they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the strike, compared with 42% who were aware of the potential strike before it went into effect on Sept. 15.
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The U.S. public’s support for the United Auto Workers labor union’s strike against Big Three automakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis continues to hold, per new Morning Consult survey data that also sheds light on why Americans are largely in labor’s corner.
A Slim Majority of Americans Continue to Support the UAW Strike
A slim 53% majority of U.S. adults surveyed over the weekend support the UAW’s decision to go on strike on Sept. 15 amid protracted negotiations with the automakers. Support for the strike remains consistent among those who identify as members of a union and those who do not.
By contrast, just 22% of U.S. adults oppose the UAW strike, even though a larger share believe the union leadership’s demands are excessive.
Is the UAW Asking for Too Much? Americans Are Divided
Survey respondents were specifically told that the autoworkers are asking the Big Three to: increase their pay by 36% over the next four years, reinstate annual cost-of-living adjustments and traditional pension benefits, allow for a four-day workweek, include paid health care for all UAW retirees, and limit the use of temporary workers. (The question of a four-day workweek for 40 hours of pay, in particular, has not polled well among the public, according to our recent survey data.)
While 36% of U.S. adults said the union is asking for too much, slightly more said it is asking for either an appropriate amount (41%) or too little (5%). What’s more, after polling respondents on the propriety of the UAW’s demands, a follow-up question that again gauged support for the overall strike saw increased support for the UAW’s decision, to 57%, while opposition only rose to 25%.
The gap between the share of U.S. adults who oppose the strike (22%) and the share who view the demands as unrealistic (36%) might be explained by broader questions about labor’s role in the U.S. economy. When asked to choose between two opposing views concerning labor relations, clear majorities of Americans came down on labor’s side.
Most Americans Are Receptive to Pro-Labor Arguments
Asked whether “worker pay should increase whenever CEO pay is increased to prevent inequality” or “worker pay should not increase whenever CEO pay is increased because the work that they are doing is different,” 62% chose the former, while only 17% chose the latter.
A similar 61% share said “companies should provide strong worker protections even if it means higher costs for consumers” over the 15% who said they should provide weaker protections to lower costs for consumers.
Specific demographics at scale: Surveying thousands of consumers around the world every day powers our ability to examine and analyze perceptions and habits of more specific demographics at scale, like those featured here.
Why it matters: Leaders need a better understanding of their audiences when making key decisions. Our comprehensive approach to understanding audience profiles complements the “who” of demographics and the “what” of behavioral data with critical insights and analysis on the “why.”
And by a rough 2-to-1 margin, U.S. adults say “workers should exercise their right to strike if they feel that they’re not getting a fair shake from their employers, even if it damages the broader economy” over finding other ways to make sure they’re taken care of.
The bottom line
That the public largely sides with labor on these questions may help explain why support has held even as the potential consequences of the strike for consumers have received more coverage.
News Coverage of the UAW Strike Is Resonating
Given these findings, there is little reason to believe that public opinion is going to swing away from the UAW as negotiations continue with U.S. automakers — even if the strike drags on long enough to put a dent in the GDP and amid a slide in U.S. consumer confidence in late August.
Cameron Easley is Morning Consult’s lead analyst for U.S. politics. Prior to moving into his current role, he led Morning Consult's editorial coverage of U.S. politics and elections from 2016 through 2022. Cameron joined Morning Consult from Roll Call, where he was managing editor. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter @cameron_easley. Interested in connecting with Cameron to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].