The Minimal Effects of Union Membership on Political Attitudes

69 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2024

See all articles by Alan Yan

Alan Yan

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, Students

Date Written: March 6, 2024

Abstract

Union membership has long been believed to liberalize a range of political attitudes from partisanship to racial prejudice. This paper argues that the theoretical preconditions necessary for such influence are unlikely to hold. Union members may not receive, may ignore, and may deprioritize their union's message compared to other considerations. Previous research faced empirical challenges with causal inference, limited sample sizes, and limited outcomes. My analysis is the first to bring together all of the publicly available panel data. I analyze 13 panel surveys from 1956 to 2020 with 37,621 respondents using difference-in-differences designs to evaluate whether union membership causes political, economic, and social attitudes to liberalize across 57 outcomes. I find that gaining union membership has less meaningful short-term, medium-term, and long-term persuasive effects than previously believed. These results suggest a reconsideration of the role of labor unions in political behavior.

Keywords: labor unions, political behavior, American politics

Suggested Citation

Yan, Alan, The Minimal Effects of Union Membership on Political Attitudes (March 6, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4615336 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4615336

Alan Yan (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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