Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

66 Percent Favor Obama's Minimum Wage Increase, but 56 Percent Oppose if it Raises Unemployment

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The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds two-thirds of Americans favor President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 an hour. However, support plummets to 37 percent if raising the minimum wage causes employers to lay off workers.

If raising the minimum wage were to increase unemployment, 56 percent of Americans oppose the proposal. Americans favor raising the minimum wage as a benefits-only proposition. However, they oppose the president's proposal if it hurts jobs and the economy.

Ultimately, support for raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour hinges on whether doing so will significantly impact unemployment and the number of jobs. But Americans are unclear about what to expect. Understandably so since, as Brian Doherty explains, the empirical findings are mixed.

Forty-two percent say raising the minimum wage will reduce the number of jobs and 42 percent believe it will have no impact on hiring decisions. Thirteen percent anticipate it will increase jobs.

Americans' underlying assumptions about the impact of raising the minimum wage on employment largely determines their support for the President's proposal.

Among Americans who think increasing the minimum wage will have no impact on the number of jobs, 86 percent favor raising it. In stark contrast, among those who expect doing so will reduce the number of jobs, 58 percent oppose raising the minimum wage.

The Pivotal Group

Forty-percent of Americans who originally favored the president's proposal would change their minds if raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour caused employers to lay off workers. This pivotal group, amounting to a quarter of all Americans, determines whether a majority supports or opposes raising the minimum wage.

This group tends to approve of President Obama's job performance, is disproportionately female, and is primarily comprised of Independents and Democrats. Latinos are also more likely to be part of this pivotal group than are other racial/ethnic groups.

Demographics

Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour by a margin of 58 to 39, Democrats favor it 88 to 10 as do Independents 62 to 35. However, if doing so caused businesses to lay off workers, Independents' support drops to 36 percent and 57 percent oppose. A majority of Democrats would favor raising the minimum wage even if it caused employers to lay off workers.

Strong majorities of all racial and ethnic groups favor raising the minimum wage. However, whites and Latinos oppose upwards of 60 percent if doing so raised unemployment, while a majority of African-Americans would continue to support the proposal.

Assumptions about the impact of the president's proposal vary by partisanship. Sixty-three percent of Republicans believe it would reduce the number of jobs, while 55 percent of Democrats say it would have no impact. Independents are divided, with slight more agreeing with Republicans over Democrats (46 to 35).

Although young people are similar to most Americans in supporting the president's plan, their support shifts dramatically if it were to increase unemployment (63 percent would oppose). When asked to consider if increasing the minimum wage would have an impact on jobs, 57 percent say it would reduce the number of jobs.

The Messenger

In sum, Americans will favor raising the minimum wage if they are convinced it's a benefits-only proposition. However, if a majority is convinced it will reduce jobs and raise unemployment they will oppose the proposal. What Americans believe is largely determined by which messenger they find more credible. Currently, President Obama has been a more effective messenger than have the Republicans.

Until Republicans can effectively convince Americans that their party did not cause the 2008 financial crisis and sluggish economy, Americans may be taking their cues on economic theory from the president.  

(Please see Gabriel Lenz' Follow the Leader for a compelling case explaining how citizens adopt the policy views of their preferred political leaders.)

Nationwide telephone poll conducted February 21-25 2013 interviewed 1002 adults on both mobile (502) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.8%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found hereFull methodology can be found here

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  1. People make different decisions if they analyze the likely consequences? Good thing we generally don’t encourage that.

    1. How are things in Afghanistan these days?

      1. WHO COULD HAVE GUESSED? There was no precedent.

  2. This group tends to approve of President Obama’s job performance, is disproportionately female, and is primarily comprised of Independents and Democrats. Latinos are also more likely to be part of this pivotal group than are other racial/ethnic groups.

    Shorter: This group is made of gullible idiots.

    1. Not that membership in those demographics makes you a gullible idiot, just that not having thought through consequences makes you one.

      1. The other two groups most likely have a pretty significant population of gullible idiots.

  3. Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman spoke of the minimum wage as hurting “Negroes and especially Negro youth”. Well, it certainly hasn’t helped them. Perhaps someone will attach an amendment to the proposal to increase the minimum wage as follows: The minimum wage applies to persons 20 years of age or greater. For those aged 19, it shall be 10% less, for those age 18 it shall be 20% less, etc. Were you an employer, might you employ a 16 year old at $5.40 to do work where if you had to employ an adult at $9.00, you’d leave the position open? Of course the minimum wage is supported by the unions. So let Obama referee a fight between the NAACP (if they really care about black youth unemployment) and his union buddies. Might be interesting, no?

  4. Forty-percent of Americans who originally favored the president’s proposal would change their minds if raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour caused employers to lay off workers. This pivotal group, amounting to a quarter of all Americans

    So at least a quarter of poll respondents don’t understand basic economics?

    1. you’re on the low side. More than half of voters chose re-election.

  5. A majority of Democrats would favor raising the minimum wage even if it caused employers to lay off workers.

    Their hearts are this big.

    1. Fucking utilitarianism, how does it work? [/ICP]

  6. Stoopid shit Dems and other socialists think about minimum wage:

    a) Labor is not subject to the Law of Marginal Utility like every other service because just thinking about it is yucky.

    b) People who make minimum wage are predominantly heads of households with 15 kids, three wives and two dogs, thus the need for a “living wage.”

    c) It’s not the employer’s money. Well, it is but it really ins’t because majorities and democracy and other red herrings.

  7. Minimum wage increases are arguably one of the most regressive policies possible, attempting to offset the disproportionately regressive impact of government currency devaluation.

    If you want to figure out whether a Left-winger is a true progressive or a pure statist, show them how regressive their policies are using basic economics and see how they react. If they generally agree with you or simply didn’t have the grasp of economic principles to comprehend why their preferred policies are regressive, perhaps we can turn them towards libertarianism and classical liberalism by making progressive arguments. If they refuse to change their opinion, we can dismiss them as state sympathizers and blind partisan hacks.

    1. LOL – I just invented a perfect word: “stagnatist” – a statist who support policies that creates permanent poverty loops by making the poor dependent on welfare and price controls, by devaluing the currency to pay for debt, by resisting educational quality reforms and by overregulating the job market.

      The stagnatist claims they are “progressive” rhetorically and at face value, it looks like they are “helping the poor.” However, they are really regressives increasing permanent dependency and poverty and provoking class warfare as an apparatus to accumulate and maintain permanent political power.

    2. “If you want to figure out whether a Left-winger is a true progressive or a pure statist, show them how regressive their policies are using basic economics and see how they react.”

      Lots of screaming, hair pulling, and name calling. He may have wet his pants, too, but I’m not sure.

  8. 66 Percent Favor Obama’s Minimum Wage Increase, but 56 Percent Oppose if it Raises Unemployment

    If?

  9. When writing these questions in the future care should be taken to distinguish between “cause workers to be laid off,” and “reduce the total employment of workers.” The m0st likely normal result of a minimum wage would be to reduce new hires. As old workers quit, not all of them are replaced. Some people entering the labor force for the first time, and perhaps some who are reetentering after a time at shool or raising children (or something,) will not find jobs. There will be less employment without there being much in the way of layoffs.

    A sufficiently large increase in the minimum wage might cause immediate layoffs, but the turnover in the U.S. labor market is huge, so just reducing new hires can rapidly reduce total employment.

    With low skill jobs, many people are just passing through them. The experienced ones might be worth quite a bit more than the minimum wage. What happens, is that not all of them will be replaced when they move on–being eligible for still better jobs due to their growing work experience, increased age, perhaps improved english, or whatever.

  10. When writing these questions in the future care should be taken to distinguish between “cause workers to be laid off,” and “reduce the total employment of workers.” The m0st likely normal result of a minimum wage would be to reduce new hires. As old workers quit, not all of them are replaced. Some people entering the labor force for the first time, and perhaps some who are reetentering after a time at shool or raising children (or something,) will not find jobs. There will be less employment without there being much in the way of layoffs.

    A sufficiently large increase in the minimum wage might cause immediate layoffs, but the turnover in the U.S. labor market is huge, so just reducing new hires can rapidly reduce total employment.

    With low skill jobs, many people are just passing through them. The experienced ones might be worth quite a bit more than the minimum wage. What happens, is that not all of them will be replaced when they move on–being eligible for still better jobs due to their growing work experience, increased age, perhaps improved english, or whatever.

  11. The apparent inconsistency is from government-run high schools AND the absolute incompetence of the typical college professor. (Of all my professors, I can think of three who had any business whatsoever teaching a class.)

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