Public Solidly Supports Increase in Minimum Wage

by Jeffrey M. Jones

More than 8 in 10 favor congressional legislation

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Democratic Party leaders are making increases in the minimum wage a priority in Congress and on state ballot initiatives this year. Congress has not raised the wage since it increased it to $5.15 per hour in 1997, though many states have enacted higher minimum wages since that time. A recent Gallup Poll shows continued strong support for raising the minimum wage. When asked what the current minimum wage is, Americans' average estimate is considerably higher than the current federal minimum wage.

Increasing the Minimum Wage

A Nov. 7-10 Gallup Poll finds 83% of Americans in favor of "Congress passing legislation that would raise the minimum wage." Only 14% say they would oppose such legislation.

Gallup usually finds high levels of support for raising the minimum wage. Over the past two decades, public support for raising the minimum wage has consistently exceeded 75%.

Most subgroups show majority support for a wage increase, but the actual level of support varies. For example, 93% of Democrats favor raising the wage, compared with 80% of independents and 74% of Republicans.

Support also varies by one's household income: those at the lower end of the economic spectrum are more likely to support an increase.

A closer look at the data shows that income and partisanship interact to some degree. Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for raising the minimum wage, regardless of their household incomes. However, among Republicans and independents, support generally declines as household incomes increase.

Assessments of the Current Situation

The poll asked Americans to guess what the current minimum wage is. The average estimate is $6.09 per hour, compared with the current federal minimum wage of $5.15. Thirteen percent of Americans estimated $5.15, 4% gave estimates below that number, and 78% gave estimates above it.

It can be tricky to assess the accuracy of Americans' estimates since the minimum wage varies by state. For example, in New York and California, the minimum wage is $6.75 per hour. This issue can be controlled to some extent by looking just at respondents who reside in states where the minimum wage is $5.15 (or in some cases, less). Specifically, 77% of residents of these states give estimates above $5.15, and the average estimate is $5.84. For comparison purposes, 92% of those living in states that have minimum wages above the federal standard give an estimate higher than $5.15, and the average estimate for residents of these states is $6.48.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 7-10, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

On another topic,

49. Do you favor or oppose Congress passing legislation that would raise the minimum wage?

Favor

Oppose

No
opinion

2005 Nov 7-10

83%

14

3

50. Just your best guess, what is the current minimum wage rate per hour worked?

2005 Nov 7-10

%

Less than $5.00

1

$5.00-$5.24

16

$5.25-$5.49

11

$5.50-$5.99

19

$6.00-$6.99

29

$7.00 or more

19

No opinion

5

Mean

$6.09

Median

$6.00

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