It's hard to know where the public was at about the strikers, but I thought this morning that I would collect all the different poll information and see if it could provide any answers. If you look at this marist poll, you'll see that 39% of all NYers blamed the MTA for the strike, but that 58% of Black New Yorkers blamed the MTA. According to the same poll, African-Americans and Latinos supported the strike more than whites did. That fits my anecdotal experience. I was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday carrying a big sign reading "I support the TWU" and got more smiles from Blacks than I did from whites.
According to this article in the Daily News, news directors on local radio stations were surprised by the level of public support for the union:
In a WWRL poll, 71% of respondents blamed the MTA and only 14% blamed the transit workers, which Bishop said he found "a little surprising. I would have thought it would have been more even."
Almost every station that took calls found support for the transit workers. "I've used the transit system for years," said Margaret, a caller to WOR, "and I've talked with many workers about the horrible conditions. We need to support them."
"Perhaps surprisingly, there's a lot of support for the strike," said WOR news director Joe Bartlett. He suggested residents were coping with the strike "because this is a city that doesn't cave under pressure. New Yorkers thrive on adversity."
The local CBS affiliate did a poll and found 63% "angry" about the strike after the first day, but if you look at the comments from people who bothered to write letters, many are supportive of the strikers and aggravated with the media coverage. ABC did a poll asking "which side are you on," and found over 50% in support of the union. MYDD has an article on polls which finds high public support in spite of negative media coverage.
My guess is that despite all the lip-service to poor people being inconvienced by the strike that the major vocal opposition to the strike came from the middle and upper class, who talked in the abstract about people earning $20,000 who were hurt by it, but that poor people felt the sacrifice was worth it if it meant a better deal for the workers. Does anyone out there have any numbers on that, besides the Marist report showing the 60% support for the strike from African Americans?
Some took advantage of the strike and the temporary ban on single-driver vehicles to promote transportation alternatives.