Only 59.5 percent of the liberal candidates backed by the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education (COPE) won national or state contests Nov. 4 -- the lowest percentage since 1968.
COPE, which campaigned hard and expensively across the country, blames economic issues and President Carter's lack of popularity for its "disappointing" showing.
In the presidential race, labor's political score card showed that "at least 58 percent of all AFL-CIO members who voted cast their ballots for Carter -- roughly 17 percent higher than his vote among the electorate at large," according to AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland. A number of polls have estimated that under 50 percent of labor voters cast ballots for the President's reelection.
Al Barkan, director of the federation's political action program, also said that while Republicans whittled away at Democratic majorities in state legislatures, taking control in a few key states, the GOP gains did not match those in congressional elections where national issues were involved.
Cope's post-election surveys have found that about 65 percent of all union members voted in Nov. 4 election, compared with only 52 percent of the national electorate.
Mr. Kirkland said the AFL-CIO is "satisfied" with the successive efforts to get union members registered, to place the issues squarely before them, and to get out votes.
"We do not pretend, nor have we ever pretended, to 'deliver' a note. We do, successfully, involve union members in the political process and help create among them substantial support for candidates we endorse," Kirkland said.
Speaking for COPE, Mr. Barkan added that "under very difficult circumstances, we held onto the loyalty of our members." Looking ahead to the congressional election in 1982, he said, "I just know in my bones" labor's unhappiness over inflation, unemployment, and other problems will be aimed at the Reagan administration, and "our people will come back home in droves."