PRINCETON, NJ Gallup finds organized labor taking a significant image hit in the past year. While 66% of Americans continue to believe unions are beneficial to their own members, a slight majority now say unions hurt the nation’s economy. More broadly, fewer than half of Americans — 48%, an all-time low — approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago (see top chart above). These results are from the 2009 installment of Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 6-9.

The 48% of Americans now approving of unions represents the first sub-50% approval since Gallup first asked the question in the 1930s. The previous low was 55%, found in both 1979 and 1981. While approval of unions has declined since 2008 among most major demographic and political groups, the biggest drop has been among political independents (see bottom chart above).

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