AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said President Trump did significantly better among union voters in last year’s election than 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, confirming a widely held assumption that Trump had unusually strong appeal among the labor rank and file.
“In the last election President Trump got 3 percentage points more of our members than Mitt Romney did. Unfortunately, Hillary [Clinton] got 10 percent of our members less than Barack Obama did. They either didn’t vote or they voted for a third-party candidate,” Trumka said at press briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor Wednesday.
Trumka argued that the 13-point swing from the 2012 election was because union workers “did not not hear a kitchen-table economic message that really addressed their needs.” That prompted many union voters to “take a risk on Donald Trump because he said he was … going to shake up the system significantly and give you something different. They thought the risk was worth it.”
The nation’s largest labor federation does internal polling of its members but only sparingly releases the data. There is little other public data specifically on union member voting. Election exit polls typically ask whether voters are members of union households but that includes non-union people who are married or related to union members. CNN’s 2016 exit polls found that Clinton won union households 51-48 percent.
Trumka added that Clinton, who the AFL-CIO mobilized its support for in the election, could not effectively communicate with them.
“Some of them believed that he would look out for their interests more than she would and sometimes they didn’t believe what she was saying,” Trumka said. He recalled that in the case of Philadelphia voters he met “about six weeks before the election, I could see the lack of enthusiasm.” Trump won the swing state of Pennsylvania.