19 October 2015
by Gary Morgan

Overwhelming majority of Australians support the right to strike

An overwhelming majority of Australians (83%) believe it should be legal for workers in private industry to strike – up a large 28% since June 1971. Now only 12% (down 21%) of Australians say it should not be legal for workers in private industry to strike and 5% (down 7%) can’t say according to a special telephone Morgan Poll conducted over three nights with 647 Australians aged 14+.

A large majority of Australians 80% (up 32% since June 1971) also support the legal right of workers in public utilities such as trains, trams, and buses to strike compared to only 17% (down 25%) who say it should not be legal and 3% (down 7%) can’t say.

Australians also support the right of professionals such as teachers and nurses working for the Government to strike – 81% (up 36% since June 1971) compared to only 16% (down 29%) that say it should not be legal and 3% (down 7%) can’t say.

A slightly lesser majority of Australians (74%) support the rights of emergency services workers such as police, ambulance drivers and firefighters to strike although this is more than three times the number of Australians (23%) who say it should not be legal for emergency workers to strike while 3% can’t say.

Analysis by Federal voting intention
A majority of supporters of all major parties agree with the legal right of workers to strike across all four questions compared to those who say strikes should be illegal.

Private Industry: L-NP (71% cf. 23%), ALP (95% cf. 4%) and Greens (95% cf. 3%)
Public Utilities: L-NP (65% cf. 31%), ALP (89% cf. 10%) and Greens (99% cf. 0%)
Professionals: L-NP (67% cf. 31%), ALP (94% cf. 4%) and Greens (99% cf. 0%)
Emergency Services Workers: L-NP (61% cf. 37%), ALP (88% cf. 10%) and Greens (78% cf. 14%).

Gary Morgan says:
“An overwhelming majority of Australians support the legal right of workers to strike – whether they be workers in private industry (83% cf. 12% no, not legal), public utility workers (80% cf. 17%), professionals such as teachers and nurses working for the Government (81% cf. 16%) or emergency services workers such as police and ambulance drivers (74% cf. 23%).

“This is a large change in sentiment from four decades ago. In 1971 only a slight majority of 55% believed workers in private industry had a legal right to strike compared to 33% who said it was not legal. In 1971 only a plurality (48%) said workers for public utilities had a legal right to strike compared to 42% who said it was not legal while Australians were evenly split on whether professionals such as teachers and nurses working for the Government had a right to strike – 45% said they did have a legal right to strike whilst another 45% said that it should not be legal.

“Analysing these questions via demographics reveals clear majorities of supporters of all major parties, clear majorities of respondents of all age groups, clear majorities of residents from every State and clear majorities of both men and women all believe workers across these four questions have a legal right to strike. Australians are close to unanimous on the legal right of workers to strike.”