At the same time, there was a modest split among Democratic Congressional Insiders on the role of unions: while more than half of the Democratic Members said that unions have "too little" influence, 38% said unions had "about the right amount" influence. Conversely, nine out of 10 GOP Congressional Insiders said unions have "too much" power, and only a handful said otherwise.
In the wake of demonstrations and protests in Wisconsin where GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature muscled through a law to significantly limit the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, Democratic Congressional Insiders were hopeful that the embattled labor movement might rebound. "There has been a steady erosion of union influence in America, as union ranks have dwindled," said one Democrat. "But all that is about to change and Wisconsin is ground zero." Echoed another, "The Wisconsin debacle illustrated how little Republicans value American workers. However, labor unions are gaining strength and will make a big impact in next year's election."
Republican Congressional Insiders blamed unions for a range of problems facing the country, including global competitiveness, the "broken education system" and state budget woes. "They are impressive at shooting down new customers and sales for U.S. businesses and farmers," said one GOP Congressional Insider. While critical, some Republicans were careful to criticize labor leaders and not the rank-and-file. "For many unions, the focus has shifted too much on centralizing power and increasing political influence for the benefit of the few on top, rather than the workers paying the dues," said another GOP Congressional Insider.
The National Journal Congressional Insiders Poll is a regular survey of Democratic and Republican Members of Congress.