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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Measures of Worker Discontent Offer Clues for Dems

Lyman Morales has an article up at Gallup.com, “More U.S. Workers Unhappy With Health Benefits, Promotions,” which should be of interest to Democratic campaigns and candidates on Labor Day. As Morales reports:

U.S. workers are more dissatisfied today with their health insurance benefits and their chances for promotion than they were before the global economic collapse. These are the biggest movers since August 2008 on a list of 13 specific job aspects Gallup tracks.
The findings are from Gallup’s annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 11-14, 2011. The majority of workers are at least somewhat satisfied with these job aspects, which Gallup asks about each year, but often fewer than half are completely satisfied. On-the-job stress remains the aspect workers’ are least positive about overall, as it was last year, with 28% of workers completely satisfied…

According to the survey, the top sources of worker dissatisfaction in percentages include: job-related stress (34); pay (30); health insurance benefits (30); employer retirement plan (28); chances for promotion (26); vacation time (20); recognition for work accomplishments (19); and job security (18).
If there is anything surprising here, it is that job security doesn’t rank higher among the list of concerns, although some of it could be included in the nebulous category ‘on-the-job-stress.’ And job security as a concern has increased only 5 percent since the ’08 (pre-Bush meltdown) survey, compared to an 11 percent hike for health insurance benefits.
It may be that many workers have a sense that their employers have cut about as many workers as they can. Perhaps the main perceived effect of high unemployment on employed workers is lower wages, more expensive health insurance and diminishing retirement assets. In light of this view, ‘it’s still the economy stupid’ for Dems, which is verified by the most recent priority-ranking polls by CNN/ORC, CBS News/New York Times and Bloomberg.
In terms of political impact, on-the-job concerns may not be a leading determinant of political attitudes. Everything can be fine at your job. But if a family member or good friend is having a tough time finding work it, it might affect your vote.
But the Gallup poll suggests it can’t hurt for Dems to do a better job of addressing sub-themes like stronger protection for retirement assets, clarification of health reform benefits and payroll tax cuts targeting the middle class. Dems have long supported all of these causes, albeit with unimpressive message discipline and low amplification.
On Labor Day 2011, Dems still have work to do in convincing swing voters that they are the party that best represents the interests of working people.

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