Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Reason-Rupe Poll: 72 Percent Favor Raising the Minimum Wage but 57 Percent Would Oppose If It Costs Jobs

Americans like the idea of hiking the cost of labor, but only if it doesn't price workers out of jobs.

|

Nearly three-fourths of Americans favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, while 26 percent oppose according to the latest Reason-Rupe poll. However, support flips and 57 percent oppose a hike if raising the minimum wage causes some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers, while only 38 percent would still favor the move. Nevertheless, 58 percent do not believe raising the minimum wage will harm jobs and 39 percent believe it will.

Assuming no cost to jobs, majorities of Democrats (88 percent), independents (70 percent), and Republicans (55 percent) favor raising the minimum wage. Self-identified libertarians are the only political group that opposes it (55 percent). Support declines with rising income and age, but majorities continue to support the proposal. Even a majority (53 percent) of tea partiers support raising the minimum wage, but they are twice as likely as non-tea partiers to oppose.

Republicans Are Divided On Raising the Minimum Wage

There is a considerable divide within the Republican Party over raising the minimum wage, even though a majority (55 percent) favor doing so. Democrats are more unified on this issue.

Among Republicans making less than $60,000 a year 63 percent support raising the minimum wage and 43 percent oppose. In stark contrast, only 35 percent of Republicans making more than $60,000 a year support a wage hike and 54 percent oppose.

A solid majority (64 percent) of young Republicans support raising the minimum wage, compared to 43 percent of Republicans over 55 years old.  Instead a majority (53 percent) of older Americans oppose raising the minimum wage, compared to 36 percent of young Republicans.

Republicans who do not support the tea party movement favor raising the wage by a margin of 60 to 37 percent. In contrast, a majority of Republican tea party supporters oppose raising the minimum wage with 44 percent in favor and 52 percent opposed.

Support Flips When Possible Costs Are Considered

While majorities favor raising the minimum wage as a costless proposition, 57 percent would oppose and 38 percent favor if doing so were to cause job layoffs or slow job growth. Support flips as half of those who initially favored raising the minimum wage change their minds if it were to hurt jobs. This shift primarily occurs among young people (58 percent), African-Americans (61 percent), and women (52 percent). For instance, nearly two-thirds of unmarried women would switch their vote while 6 in 10 unmarried men would not.

It is relevant to know how Americans would make trade-offs between higher wages for some and possible job losses for others, particularly because the economics field has not reached a consensus on this matter. Some economists argue there will be no harm to jobs, for instance hereherehere, while others say there will be, for instance hereherehere.)

But Most Americans Consider Job Losses Unlikely, Except Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Party Supporters

What ultimately drives public opinion on minimum wage, as with most public policy, is whether Americans actually believe raising wage floors will cost jobs or cost them personally. The poll found 39 percent believe raising the minimum wage will reduce jobs, 35 percent say it will have no impact, and 23 percent thought it would increase jobs. In sum, 58 percent do not expect the minimum wage to harm jobs.

The only groups in which a majority expects minimum wage increases to impact jobs include Republicans (54 percent), self-identified libertarians (67 percent), and tea party supporters (56 percent).

Groups who are most likely to reject the claim that the minimum wage harms jobs, include Democrats (70 percent), self-identified progressives (76 percent), and nonwhite Americans (71 percent).

Even Americans Who Think the Minimum Wage Reduces Jobs Will Still Favor an Increase Unless Jobs Are Explicitly Mentioned

Interestingly, Americans who expect harm to jobs do not initially consider such effects when asked their opinion on the minimum wage. In other words, people who already agree with the premise—that minimum wage hikes harm jobs—do not have these considerations at the top of their heads when asked a survey question. Instead, they must be explicitly reminded of the possible connection before it impacts their response, or perhaps even their vote.

We measured this in the poll by first asking people if they favored or opposed raising the minimum wage, without mentioning jobs. Second, we asked if raising the wage would impact jobs. Third, we asked if they favored or opposed raising the minimum wage if it did reduce jobs. Here is what we found:

Among these Americans who expect harm to jobs, a majority (54 percent) still support raising the minimum wage when first asked, and when the topic of jobs has not been raised. However, after jobs are mentioned, these same Americans overwhelmingly flip their support with 72 percent opposed to the minimum wage increase and only 25 percent in favor.

Most Americans View Minimum Wage Jobs As Stepping Stones, Not Long-Term Positions for Established Workers

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans view minimum wage jobs as primarily long-term positions for established workers to support their families. In contrast, 61 percent of Americans view these jobs as stepping-stones for younger or low skilled workers to gain skills. In fact, Pew reports that 50.6 percent of minimum wage workers are between 16 and 24 years old, and another 20.3 percent are between 25 and 34 years old, totaling 71 percent under 35.

Eight in ten Republicans and independent-leaning Republicans view minimum wage jobs as stepping-stones, 14 percent view them as long-term positions for established workers. A slimmer majority (53 percent) of Democrats also view them as stepping-stones, while 39 percent believe they should pay enough to support a family. However, a majority (51 percent) of independents who lean Democratic—and also trend younger—view these jobs as long-term positions for established workers, while 44 percent view them as stepping-stones.

Roughly two-thirds of Caucasians and Latinos view minimum age jobs as stepping-stones to gain skills, while African-Americans are evenly divided.

Nevertheless, a solid majority of Americans who view minimum wage jobs as stepping stones also think their wages should be raised by of margin of 66 to 31 percent. Not surprisingly, those who think they should pay enough to support a family favor raising the minimum wage 84 percent to 15 percent.

However, after introducing possible costs to jobs, those who view minimum wage jobs as stepping-stones shift and 63 percent would oppose a wage increase, while 33 percent would still favor. Yet, among those who view minimum wage jobs as long-term positions for established workers, they split evenly between those who would favor (48 percent) and oppose (47 percent) a wage increase.

Americans Think It Is Government's Job To Set the Minimum Wage

Since the New Deal consensus, few continue to question the premise that the federal government should set a minimum wage, except perhaps for libertarians. In fact, self-described libertarians were the only political group in which a majority (53 percent) believes the government should not set a minimum wage.

Instead, 73 percent of Americans agree that the federal government should set a minimum wage while 24 percent believe it should not have this job.

Some Americans are more likely to question the premise of government-mandated wage floors than others. For instance, tea partiers are 20 points more likely than regular Republicans to oppose government setting the minimum wage 46 percent to 26 percent, while 49 and 73 percent favor respectively.

Americans Want The Poor To Make More Money

Americans think government has a role in setting the minimum wage, and most favor raising this wage by a few dollars. However, when the very plausible cost to jobs is considered Americans change their minds and oppose a wage increase. Nevertheless, at the present time, most Americans do not expect such a pursuant cost.

Without mentioning a possible cost, survey questions asking about minimum wage increases are primarily measuring whether Americans want the young and poor to make more money. However, we do not live in a benefits-only world. Even if minimum wage increases do not impact jobs or prices, some sacrifices will need to be made by somebody. Instead, public opinion research should measure what Americans are willing to give up in order for the young and poor to make more money.

Poll Methodology

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed 1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.

Question Wording

  1. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents per hour?
  2. Do you think the federal government should set a minimum wage, or not?
  3. Do you think raising the minimum wage would (reduce) the number of jobs, (increase) the number of jobs, or have no impact on the number of jobs?
  4. What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?
  5. Do you view minimum wage jobs as (stepping-stones to help lower skilled or younger workers gain skills) or as (long-term positions for established workers to support their families)?