Californians' view of organized labor has soured over the past two and a half years: 45% of those surveyed in a poll released Friday said unions do more harm than good, up from 35% in a March 2011 reading.
The results of the independent Field Poll showed a stark shift in public opinion in California, long a labor union stronghold. Even those who identify as Democrats or have union affiliations reported their views on labor unions taking a turn for the worse.
The poll of 1,002 registered voters was conducted between Nov. 14 and Dec. 5 and also found that recent public transit worker strikes in the Bay Area, which disrupted commuters' workdays, affected the public's opinion.
Statewide, 47% of voters said public transit workers should be allowed to strike versus 44% who said they should not.
"Voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area... are more likely than voters elsewhere to oppose public transit workers having the right to strike," pollster Mark DiCamillo said.
Friday's poll results come as labor groups nationwide are fighting dwindling union membership and are forming coalitions with non-labor groups to reverse their declining political clout. Ties with progressive groups such as the NAACP, the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza were formalized at the AFL-CIO's recent September convention.
California, strongly Democratic, has been a hotbed for unions, but Friday's poll show voters may not be so keen on disruptive strikes, such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit strikes in July and October.
Among Democrats, 30% of voters said unions do more harm than good -- up 9 percentage points from March 2011. The jump in negative opinion was steeper among Republicans: 70% said unions do more harm than good, up 13 percentage points from the last reading two and a half years ago.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.