Americans Feel the Nation's Minimum Wage is Too Low, But Are Conflicted on whether $15.00 an Hour is Too Much

New York's recent push to up wages for fast food workers seen as unfair to workers in other industries

Aug 13, 2015, 05:05 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, Aug. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A strong majority of Americans (72%) - crossing regional, political, generational, gender and income lines – believe the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is lower than it should be. However, while Americans clearly feel minimum wage should be higher, exactly how high remains a more contentious subject.

When informed that some U.S. cities have introduced programs to grow their minimum wage rates to $15.00 per hour in the next few years, a six in ten majority of U.S. adults (59%) feel this rate is at least somewhat higher than it should be.

  • But not everyone feels this way. While majorities of Republicans (81%) and Independents (62%) feel $15.00 per hour is more than the minimum wage should be, only four in ten Democrats (41%) share this perspective, slightly behind the percentage who feel it's about right (43%).

While resistance to this level of compensation likely has many causes, one that may be weighing on adults' minds is concern over their own bottom lines: eight in ten Americans (81%) believe that a higher minimum wage would increase costs for consumers.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,045 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 28 and 30, 2015. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

When presented with key provisions from the New York State wage board's recent recommendation to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour for fast food workers at chains with more than 30 locations, sentiments were mixed toward many elements of it.

  • Just over half of Americans (53%) support the end-of-2018 deadline for reaching this wage rate in 2018, while just over half (52%) oppose the mid-2021 statewide deadline, but ultimately Americans most take issue with the divergent standards these dates represent. Six in ten U.S. adults (60%) oppose New York City and the rest of the state reaching a $15.00 per hour minimum wage at different times.
  • A 55% majority opposes the recommendation's focus on workers in the fast food industry, while a narrow 52% majority opposes its focus on chains with 30 or more locations.

Big picture

Stepping back from which cities are planning what wage hikes and looking at these issues more broadly, a resounding 87% of U.S. adults agree – 52% strongly so – that raising the minimum wage only for fast food workers is unfair to workers in other industries.

  • Majorities also agree that all workers should be entitled to the same minimum wage, regardless of what industry they're in (76%) and that all employers should be required to pay the same minimum wage regardless of company size (69%).
  • Fewer than three in ten (28%) feel there should not be a minimum wage requirement at all.

Circling back to the contentious $15.00 figure, when asked directly whether they agree or disagree that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.00 per hour nationwide, Americans are divided down the middle at 50% each. Even drilling down to "strongly" agree and disagree responses reveals an all but even divide, with 29% strongly agreeing and 28% strongly disagreeing.

  • Nearly three-fourths of Democrats (73%) agree that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.00 per hour nationwide, while nearly eight in ten Republicans (79%) and over half of Independents (55%) disagree.
  • Divides also exist by generation and income:
    • 58% of Millennials agree, while Gen Xers are divided (49% agree, 51% disagree) and majorities of Baby Boomers (55%) and Matures (56%) disagree.
    • Roughly six in ten (59%) of those who would be impacted most by such a move –those in households earning under $50,000 per year – agree with the concept, while majorities of those in households earning $75,000 per year or more disagree (61% of those earning $75k-<$100k, 59 of those earning $100k or more) disagree.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 28 and 30, 2015 among 2,045 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #49, August 13, 2015
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

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