In a survey taken before the union protests in Wisconsin and other state capitals, 44% of Americans said they side with labor unions when they hear of disagreements between unions and state and local governments, while 38% say they side with governments. Opinions are also divided when labor unions are in disputes with business. When these disagreements arise, 40% say their first reaction is to side with unions, compared with 43% who say they side with business. A 1995 survey found a similar balance of opinion — 43% sided with businesses, 36% sided with unions. There is also little difference in views of private and public sector unions. Labor unions that represent workers for state and local governments are viewed favorably by 48% of Americans and unfavorably by 40%. Unions representing workers for private companies are viewed favorably by 48% and unfavorably by 37%. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.