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Poll Shows Key Role of Union Vote in Election

Union voters played an important role in President-elect Barack Obama's historic victory, delivering a critical bloc of support in swing states that helped propel Obama and other worker-friendly candidates to big wins on Nov. 4, according to polling data from the AFL-CIO.

High turnout among working-class union voters in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania formed a foundation of support for Obama. In new battleground states like Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, the AFL-CIO mounted a bigger effort than ever before, and union members voted by large margins for Obama.

AFL-CIO union members across battleground states supported Obama by a 68 percent to 30 percent margin, according to an election-night survey conducted for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. (Separate figures for the AFT were not available, but AFT members typically have supported the union's endorsed candidate at even higher numbers.)

"Led by a candidate with an uncommon ability to inspire hope, we reclaimed our country from those who are serving corporate interests and the privileged at the expense of everyone else," AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said. "We have taken the first crucial steps to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. And what we've seen—the stunning voter participation and the common call for change-is an indication of the history we can continue to make together."

Among the other findings from the survey:

Obama won among white men who are union members by 18 points, while losing that group by 16 points in the general public.

Obama won among union gun owners by a 12-point margin, while losing that group in the general public by 25 points.

Union veterans voted for Obama by a 25-point margin. He lost among that group in the general public by nine points.

Sixty percent of union members identified the economy and jobs as their top issue, with 84 percent saying strengthening the economy was the most important factor in their vote.

Union members identified protecting pensions and Social Security, and reducing healthcare costs, as the top priorities for the new administration.

Eighty-one percent of union members support passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

This year's campaign was the largest, broadest and most targeted effort in AFL-CIO history. The program reached union members, members of union households, retirees, and members of Working America, the AFL-CIO's community affiliate for workers who don't have a union on the job. In all, the AFL-CIO's program reached out to more than 13 million union voters in 24 battleground states.

More than 250,000 AFL-CIO volunteers gave up countless evenings and weekends throughout the course of this campaign to talk to co-workers, neighbors and other union members about the stakes in this election. In the final four days of the election, the AFL-CIO's "Final Four" GOTV program reached millions of union voters in battleground states.

Over the course of the campaign, volunteers made 76 million phone calls, knocked on 14 million doors and delivered 29 million fliers at work sites. The AFL-CIO and its affiliate unions sent 57 million pieces of mail to union households this year. As a result of this effort, 84 percent of union members in battleground states said they heard from their union this election cycle.

For its part, the AFT deployed nearly 600 full-time campaign coordinators and 5,000 volunteers to assist affiliates and the AFL-CIO in member-education and get-out-the-vote efforts. (See related story.) After endorsing Obama at its national convention in July, the AFT made more than 4 million contacts with its membership, including phone calls, mail, leaflets and direct member-to-member contact at home and at the workplace.

The AFL-CIO also carried out a nine-state voter protection program to ensure every vote would count on Election Day. The "My Vote, My Right" voting rights protection program worked for several months to educate citizens about their voting rights and train polling monitors, and worked closely with secretaries of state on election administration plans. On Election Day, the program deployed more than 2,700 volunteer polling monitors nationwide, including 800 in Michigan and 500 in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. [AFL-CIO press release]

November 12, 2008