Creative Destruction

September 7, 2006

Survey Says … (in honor of Labor Day)

Filed under: Content-lite,Politics,Statistical Method — Brutus @ 5:40 pm

Undernews, the online report of the Progressive Review, has the following polling results, which I quote in whole and to which I add my comments. This isn’t my usual cup of tea, as I object to polls in principle and their reliabilty on methodological grounds. However, for idle consideration, these data provide a curiously (if not characteristically) sad snapshot of consensus belief in the U.S.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of labor unions while 33% disagree and have an unfavorable view … By way of comparison, 69% of Americans have a favorable opinion of a company the unions love to hate-Walmart. Twenty-nine percent have an unfavorable opinion of the retail giant. Forty-eight percent (48%) have a favorable opinion of General Motors while 21% hold the opposite view.

Walmart has garnered probably more than its share of bad press over the years. Walmart and Bill Gates are both emblems of America, each in their own way, and we fixate on them to the exclusion of other similar actors on the national and international stage. So in answer to the radically reductive, false dualism question favorable or unfavorable? more people like Walmart than like labor unions. Perhaps that means we care more about how we spend our money than how we earn it. At the very least, you just can’t beat with a stick those low, low prices for earning goodwill. As to GM, it could only dream of a 48% market share, as more people in the U.S. buy Toyotas than anything else (I think — didn’t really check).

The volunteer Minutemen who organized patrols of the Mexican border are viewed favorably by 54% and unfavorably by 22%.

Why this is stuck in there I can’t say. Paranoia over illegal immigrants taking our high-paying union-pedigreed American jobs? Those familiar with the Minutemen know that the tone and affect of those folks ranges from sport to vigilantism, which hardly reflect the mostly favorable assessment of the public. I fully recognize that undocumented immigration and border crossing is illegal, but those aliens aren’t exactly vermin, so the scorn heaped upon them is a bit much for my taste.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of men have a favorable opinion of labor unions along with 61% of women. White Americans are less likely to have a favorable opinion of unions than others. Thirty- and-forty-somethings have less favorable views than those under 30 and over 50. This year, 38% of Americans say they celebrate Labor Day as a time to honor the contributions of workers in society. Forty-five percent celebrate the holiday as the unofficial end of summer.

Curious how the data is split according to demographics, namely age, race, and gender. Either we’re not supposed to notice or pay attention to those things because they’re merely cultural constructs (or destructive cultural constructs) or they matter a lot. I can never remember which for sure, as the PC response varies widely. That opinion shifts from those old enough to remember unions actually working to protect workers to the younger set for whom unions have now become just another dues-collecting bureacracy is no surprise. The union movement isn’t quite dead, but it’s been pretty well gutted.

Similarly, we don’t generally know anymore that Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 to honor the sacrifices of labor to obtain safe and fair working conditions we now mostly take for granted. Most of the rest of the world celebrates labor on May 1, but we have now come to understand that Labor Day merely marks the end of summer and the start of the back-to-school season. That result echoes the transition of Christmas, Easter, and Halloween from sacred to manifestly secular holidays celebrated even by those of non-Christian faiths or no faith at all.


1 Comment »

  1. Actually my understanding is that Labor Day was specifically selected to be different from May 1 to distinguish decent God-fearing American labor from the godless reds and the socialists who revere the date. (Which, good.)

    Comment by Robert — September 7, 2006 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

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