There is no question that unions, and especially public employee unions, remain a major source of funding and campaign workers for Democratic candidates. We saw this in 2010, when three public employee unions (SEIU, AFSCME and the NEA) were the leading independent spenders on behalf of Democratic candidates, and unions continue to provide large numbers of volunteers for Democratic registration and get-out-the-vote drives. But how worried should the eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee be about union voters next year?
According to political observer Alan I Abramowitz:
While labor unions remain a crucial source of financial support and campaign workers for the Democratic Party and its candidates, union voters make up a much smaller component of the Democratic electoral coalition today than in the past. This is due to both the decline in the proportion of voters in union households and the declining loyalty of union voters to Democratic candidates. Part of this decline in loyalty reflects the impact of cross-pressures on the voting decisions of white union members who are also either regular churchgoers or gun owners. Evidence from the 2008 National Exit Poll indicates that even in an election in which the economy was the dominant issue, both church attendance and gun ownership exerted a substantially stronger influence than union membership on candidate preference among white voters. It remains to be seen whether an increase in the salience of issues affecting unions such as the collective bargaining rights of public employees will alter this pattern in 2012.