Blue-Collar Workers Increasingly Optimistic Under Trump

New poll: 85 percent of blue-collar workers say their lives are heading 'in the right direction'

President Donald Trump | Getty
August 29, 2018

Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, blue-collar workers are increasingly optimistic about their social and economic circumstances.

A new survey, conducted by the Harris Poll, found that 85 percent of blue-collar workers said their lives are advancing in "the right direction." The survey, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, took place between July 9 and July 23. Data were collected from 1,049 blue-collar workers from across the nation who are employed in professions requiring manual labor.

Across the board, the results indicate America's blue-collar workforce is sanguine about the nation's current economic outlook and their own standing. Apart from the 85 percent of blue-collar Americans who said their lives are going in the right direction, 69 percent said their local communities are on the right path, and 58 percent view their states as being on a positive course.

The poll found 51 percent of blue-collar workers believe the country is heading in the right direction, a figure 12-percentage points higher than the 39 percent recorded amongst all Americans in a similar July Harvard-Harris Poll.

Overall, 55 percent of blue-collar Americans expressed they were better off today compared with five years ago.

Not only are blue-collar workers bullish about their current economic situation, they are also upbeat about the future. The survey found that 80 percent of blue-collar workers are optimistic about the future, with over one-third stating they were "very optimistic."

Among those with children, 88 percent of respondents indicated they believed their children were likely to attain a better future. This stands in stark contrast to data collected by the Pew Research Center in 2017, which showed only 37 percent of Americans believing their children would grow up to be better off financially.

Bill Stoller, the CEO of Express Employment Professionals, said his organization commissioned the poll to ascertain the optimism of blue-collar Americans, especially since so much attention is being paid to the group ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

"There’s been a great deal of chatter about the future and frustrations of America's blue-collar workers," Stoller said. "Our survey reveals that blue collar workers are upbeat, optimistic, and proud of the work they do. While the news is often full of stories about economic anxieties, this survey shows workers who are exceptionally optimistic."

In July 2018, the economy added 37,000 manufacturing jobs, boosting the total number created in the sector in the past 12 months to 327,000—the fastest rate of growth in 23 years. Likewise, the construction industry has added over 308,000 jobs in the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The soaring economy, buoyed by the president's tax cut package, has also translated into increased wages and bonuses for the American worker.

Over two-thirds of blue-collar workers—68 percent—reported receiving a pay increase in the past year, according to the Harris Poll. Of those who received a pay increase, 39 percent of respondents stated their raise equaled more than 5 percent of their annual earnings.

Despite the strong economic optimism found among blue-collar Americans, the group as a whole holds low opinions of elected officials and partisan politics.

Approximately 70 percent of the poll's respondents expressed distrust in "elected government officials" and only 51 percent said the federal government advocates pro-business policies. On the topic of partisan affiliation, 39 percent said the Republican Party did a better job of helping blue-collar workers, compared with 36 percent who said the same of the Democratic Party. Almost one in four believed neither party did a sufficient job of helping blue-collar Americans.

Such numbers don't bode well for the Democratic Party, which has long been identified as the home of blue-collar and working-class voters. A breakdown of voting patterns from the 2016 presidential election shows Trump did exceedingly better among this constituency than previous Republican contenders for the White House.

Complicating matters further for the Democratic Party is the fact that voters belonging to labor unions, long a vital component of the party's base, are faring well under the economic policies of the Trump administration.

The Harris Poll found skilled trade workers, those more likely to belong to labor unions, indicated greater optimism about their present circumstances than general labor workers, who are less likely to be union members.

This was exhibited when the survey's respondents were asked if their jobs provided "a good living" with which to "financially support" their families. In total, 80 percent of blue-collar workers said their current jobs provided the means to support their families, compared with 85 percent of skilled trade workers and only 72 percent of general laborers. Furthermore, 61 percent of skilled trade workers expressed they were better off today than five years ago, compared with 45 percent of general labor workers.

Mark Glyptis, the president of United Steelworkers Local 2911 in Weirton, W.Va., told the Washington Free Beacon there was no doubt about the economic resurgence being witnessed.

"There aren’t any questions that the economy is much better today," Glyptis said. "There is a huge demand for workers and skilled workers. In many cases, the demand for skilled workers greatly exceeds the number available."

Glyptis, who in the past has spoken favorably of the president and his trade policies, pointed to Trump's economic strategy and his commitment to American manufacturing as the root cause of blue-collar optimism.

"Previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, spent too much time worrying about foreign unemployment rates while neglecting our domestic economy," Glyptis said. "President Trump has made American manufacturing—especially steel—more competitive on the world stage by ensuring a level playing field. We didn't have that ability under previous presidents." 

"I have a big sense of optimism about the direction our country is headed," Glyptis added.