Australian attitudes towards trade union power and wealth distribution: a longitudinal study

Stream: Panel 7 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Public Opinion in Australia 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Trade unions serve a vital role in politics campaigning for a more equitable wealth distribution between capital and labour. At the same time, concerns about the excesses of trade union power have lead to both left- and right-wing parties seeking to regulate trade union activity. This paper tracks three decades of movements in public opinion towards the power of trade unions, big business and wealth distribution with cross-sectional survey data and seeks to explain the instability of public opinion towards both unions and business. The trend since the Hawke government has been for trade unions to be perceived as having significantly less power, but no equivalent change in perceptions of big business, while for the same period there has been an increase in the support for more wealth distribution. This paper therefore seeks to assess these divergences, applying a variety of multivariate regression analyses, to examine the social and political bases of public opinion and explain these movements of opinion.


Luke Mansillo (Presenter), University of Sydney

Steven McEachern (Presenter), Australian National University