PRINCETON, NJ -- Seven in 10 Americans say they would vote "for" raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour if given the opportunity, while 27% would vote against such a bill. The proposal, made by President Barack Obama in his 2013 State of the Union speech, is backed by over 90% of Democrats and self-described liberals, and by over two-thirds of independents and moderates. Republicans are evenly split on the proposal, while conservatives tilt slightly in favor.
There is also a wide range of support among various demographic groups, although the majority of every group supports it.
In addition to liberals and Democrats, those most likely to favor raising the minimum wage include nonwhites, adults earning less than $24,000 annually, women, young adults, residents of the East, and moderates. At least three-quarters of Americans in each of these groups support it.
Additionally, at least two-thirds of seniors, lower-middle-income Americans (those earning between $24,000 and $59,999 a year), independents, Western and Southern residents, and adults aged 30 to 49 are in favor.
Support drops below 67% among Republicans, conservatives, residents of the Midwest, men, adults aged 50 to 64, whites, and upper-middle- and high-income Americans.
Although High, Current Support for Wage Increase Is Below Prior Levels
Obama called for the wage increase in his Feb. 12, 2013, address to Congress, saying, "Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. We should be able to get that done." More specifically, Obama is calling for an increase to $9 by the end of 2015, after which it would be indexed to inflation.
Although overall support for increasing the wage to $9 is high in absolute terms, it is a bit lower than Gallup found for previous minimum wage increase proposals. In 1996, 1999, and 2000, between 81% and 83% of Americans favored raising the minimum wage with question wordings that indicated to respondents that the change would increase the hourly wage by about $1. In 1995, slightly fewer -- 77% -- favored raising the minimum wage over the next two years from $4.25 to $5.15 when President Bill Clinton's sponsorship of the proposal was mentioned in the question.
One reason current support may be on the low side is that the $9 proposed hourly wage would represent a $1.75 increase over the current level. If passed, that would be by far the biggest jump ever passed by Congress. The last three increases -- in 2007, 2008, and 2009 -- were each 70 cents, the highest amounts to date.
Gallup routinely asked about minimum-wage increases between 1945 and 1957, when the wage ranged from 40 cents to $1 per hour. During this period, smaller majorities -- generally between 60% and 70% -- favored each proposal to increase it; however, the question included the potentially support-dampening statement that the minimum wage meant "all persons working in [most businesses and industries] in every state, including young people who have never worked before, cannot be paid less than [proposed amount] an hour."
Raising the federal minimum wage is typically a crowd pleaser when it comes to policy prescriptions, and Obama's proposal to push the rate from the current $7.25 to $9 is no exception. The 71% vs. 27% balance of U.S. public opinion in favor of passing it is convincing, particularly when considering that even half of Republicans are in favor.
Americans' support for boosting the minimum wage may be a bit dampened by continued high unemployment, and could reflect public awareness of critics' argument that raising the minimum wage causes employers to cut back on workers, thereby hurting the low-income population the wage is designed to help. At the same time, others argue that the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living, and even at $9 would be lower in real dollars than what it was in earlier decades. In the end, it may be a sense of charity to the low-income that has historically compelled Americans to generally favor an increase in the minimum wage, whatever the wage is or will be.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 2-3, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphones numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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