Intraparty Cleavages and Partisan Attitudes Toward Labor Policy

  • Gregory LyonEmail author
Original Paper


Although one in every four jobs in the U.S. is considered low-wage—encompassing millions of jobs held by Republicans and Democrats alike—little is known about partisans’ views on policies that govern the workplace. This study examines the issue using two separate national surveys and administrative data to assess partisan attitudes toward two components of labor policy: (1) support for unionization; and (2) the role of labor unions in the workplace. The close association between labor unions and Democrats anticipates predictable attitudinal differences among partisans. However, this presupposes the absence of alternative policy reasoning. The results indicate that experience constitutes such an alternative: lower-income Republicans and Republicans from union households break from party cues and offer support for worker unionization—notably in low-wage industries including fast-food and retail—and see labor unions as important institutions that improve working conditions and job security. Democrats who come from union households offer more consistent and greater support for worker unionization than non-union Democrats, and like union Republicans, see unions as important institutions in the workplace. The results point to the importance of experience and the workplace for policy attitudes. The findings suggest that labor policy may constitute an important, if overlooked, domain with cross-cutting attitudinal cleavages based, to some extent, on one’s place in the labor market, rather than one’s place in partisan politics.


Public opinion Labor policy Partisanship Work Political attitudes 



The author is grateful to Janice Fine, Rick Lau, Zayna Lyon, Katie McCabe, Lisa Miller, Will Young, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this work. Replication materials can be found at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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