If Polls Ruled: Should public opinion decide policy?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series If Polls Ruled
President Obama greets congressional pages at State of the Union

President Barack Obama greets House and Senate Pages as he departs the House Chamber after delivering the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon released for public use.)

Would our system of government work better if public opinion ruled? Republicans and Democrats can’t agree, but a majority of Americans agree on a number of key policy proposals. Should public opinion set policy?

One way to look at this is to examine public support of the proposals Obama outlined in his State of the Union (SOTU) address. Gallup analysts have done just that for 10 key proposals. This week, we’ll examine two each day.

Today, we look at proposals related to economic policy.

Do Americans want to raise the minimum wage? In his SOTU address, Obama urged Congress to raise it. Gallup last asked about this issue in November 2013. Then, three quarters of Americans (76%) were in favor. A January 2014 Pew poll found similar levels of support.

Do Americans want to strengthen labor unions? Right-to-work laws weaken unions. Obama said that we need laws to strengthen unions. Gallup reports that a majority of Americans (53%) approve rather than disapprove of unions. Since 1936, Americans have been more pro-union than anti-union. But, Gallup polls also show that an even larger majority of Americans (71%) favor right-to-work laws.

The full impact of right-to-work laws is yet to be determined. Michigan is now a right-to-work state. Union membership fell sharply in 2014, reports the Detroit News. The drop is attributed to the law.

Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Would you like to see laws that strengthen labor unions?
Should polls rule?

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  1. Sandra Xenakis says

    I find it hard to believe that 71% of Americans favor right-to-work laws. I wonder if most people understand what a right-work-law is, as the name is misleading. Have any polls been taken to test Americans’ understanding of these laws? I’d love to see one.

  2. Years ago, as a temporary employee at Ford Motor Co., between college semesters, it was mandatory to join the union. Hefty initiation fees plus union dues were required upon the first paycheck. But union benefits were not accessible until one worked 90 days. I was employed a total of 110 days. Although grateful for the well-paid job (albeit physically exhausting), the union requirement left a foul taste.

    However, unions improved the lives of the men and the women of the industrial revolution and provided a healthy middle-class for decades in our nation. That middle-class is now struggling for existence. I’m beginning to re-think my previous disdain for unions. Hmmm.