UAW Strike Support Hits a New High Following Michigan Visits From Biden and Trump

Morning Consult tracking data shows 58% of U.S. adults support the strike now, up from 53% a week ago
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Kelly Rice
October 04, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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A week that saw President Joe Biden make history by becoming the first U.S. president to visit a labor union picket line also saw record-high support among the public for the United Auto Workers strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

According to the latest weekly Morning Consult survey tracking public sentiment of the ongoing Sept. 15 strike, 58% of U.S. adults support it — up 5 percentage points from the previous survey and the highest reading recorded so far.

Support for the UAW Strike Hits a Record High Due to Uptick Among Republicans and Independents

Shares of U.S. adults who support or oppose the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis
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The Sept. 9-11 survey asked respondents if they would support a strike on Sept. 15 if no agreement is reached.
Surveys conducted among a representative sample of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses not shown.

The increase in support from the previous survey was largely driven by Republicans, among whom support rose from 41% to 49%, and independents, among whom support rose from 45% to 51%. Roughly 7 in 10 Democrats support the UAW’s strike, which is largely in line with findings from the past month.

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While it’s possible that Biden’s Sept. 26 pep talk to workers at a General Motors warehouse outside Detroit is partially responsible for the uptick in support among Republicans, it’s also plausible — and perhaps more likely — that former President Donald Trump’s own visit to a nonunion auto factory in Michigan, where some striking UAW members were said to be present, is filtering down to his base.

Roughly half (49%) of Republican voters said they had seen, read or heard something about Trump’s Sept. 27 address to those autoworkers, slightly less than the 59% who said the same of Biden’s visit to the picket line. Among all U.S. voters, 64% reported hearing at least something about Biden’s personal outreach, compared with 49% who said the same of Trump’s.

However, we can’t completely discount the notion that coverage of Biden’s visit has translated to increased support for the UAW’s efforts even among Americans who loathe the president. 

More Americans Than Not Approve of Biden’s Presence at the Picket Line

Shares of U.S. adults who approve or disapprove of President Biden’s joining the United Auto Workers picket line and urging them to "stick with it"
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Survey conducted Sept. 27-30, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses not shown.

While 58% of U.S. adults who identify as Republican disapprove of Biden’s urging of UAW workers to “stick with it” at the picket line, an ample 29% approve of the historic visit. (Among registered Republican voters, approval was a bit lower at 24%, while disapproval was higher at 62%.)

It’s tough to parse exactly how public consumption of these speeches is influencing opinion on the strike itself, but it’s clear that coverage of these visits drove more attention to the strike.

Americans Are Hearing More and More About the UAW Strike

Share of U.S. adults who said they had seen, read or heard the following about the Sept. 15 strike by the United Auto Workers against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis:
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Surveys conducted weekly in 2023 among a representative sample of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of U.S. adults now say they’ve heard something about the strike, up from 42% who said they’d heard about the potential strike in the week before it happened. The volume of coverage is also spiking: Roughly a quarter (26%) of U.S. adults say they have heard “a lot” about the strike, almost twice the share who said the same in early September.

The bottom line

Visits by the leaders of the country’s two major parties are the latest and clearest sign that  unions’ political strength is on the rise in America — a significant shift from a decadeslong depletion of power for organized labor.

In the case of an increasingly likely Biden-Trump rematch, many industry leaders looking toward 2024 should expect a continuation of unfavorable rhetoric from the most high-profile part of the campaign trail. If our data on public support for the UAW's activities is any guide, that rhetoric will continue filtering down to the American public throughout the election season.

A headshot photograph of Cameron Easley
Cameron Easley
Lead U.S. Politics Analyst

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].

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