Ohio vote: A big share of shrinking unions for Obama
Policy + Politics

Ohio vote: A big share of shrinking unions for Obama


Older white men who are evangelical Christians and gun lovers? They’re supposed to be the core of Republican Mitt Romney’s political base. But in the battleground state of Ohio, many of them also belong to labor unions that are sympathetic to President Obama.

These are the blue collar workers who in 1980 became Reagan Republicans. The AFL-CIO says in a new poll that its union members are solidly behind Obama this time around, cutting into a demographic group Romney needs to win not only Ohio but the White House.

Obama leads 70 percent to 29 percent among Ohio union members, according to a survey released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO of 408 card-carriers living in the Buckeye state. The president has increased his popularity by five percentage points since 2008.

“Membership there is 83 percent white, 40 percent Evangelical Christian, and 53 percent gun owners—all groups where Romney needs to ‘run up the score’ in order to stay in contention,” the AFL-CIO said in a statement. “Indeed, Obama is winning 65 percent of white union members, 50 percent of Evangelical union members, and 59 percent of union gun households.”

Sound good for Obama? Not entirely.

Labor union power has been declining in Ohio.  Almost one million Ohioans—20 percent of the workforce—were unionized in 1992, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bill Clinton carried the state with 40 percent of the vote, beating George H.W. Bush (38 percent) and Ross Perot (21 percent). If this was 1992, today’s poll would signal an Obama win.

But just 13.4 percent of Ohioans, 647,000 people, were unionized in 2011. That group has essentially dwindled from 19 percent share of the state’s electorate to a mere 11 percent.