58 Percent Oppose Minimum Wage Increase if it Costs Jobs, but 51 Percent Would Accept Higher Prices


Two-thirds of Americans favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, while 32 percent oppose according to the latest Reason-Rupe poll. However, support slips when possible costs are considered.

A slim majority of Americans (51 percent) would continue to favor even if raising the minimum wage caused businesses to raise prices and 46 percent would oppose. However, support flips and 58 percent oppose if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers, while 39 percent would favor. While a price increase would shave off 16 points of support, jobs loses would reduce support by 28 points.

Willingness to pay higher prices or sacrifice jobs to raise incomes among some low-income Americans varies across partisans. Two-thirds of Democrats would pay higher prices, as would 50 percent of independents and 31 percent of Republicans. Fifty-four percent of Democrats would also be willing to increase unemployment, compared to 38 percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans. Instead a majority of Republicans (77 percent) and independents (59 percent) would oppose a minimum wage increase if it harmed jobs.

Nevertheless, 59 percent do not believe raising the minimum wage will harm jobs, including 20 percent who think it will increase the number of jobs and 39 percent who estimate no impact. Thirty-eight percent think it will harm employment. When it comes to who believes jobs will be harmed, Republicans (56 percent) and independents (43 percent) are far more likely than Democrats (18 percent) to believe this.

When Americans were asked how they thought most companies would primarily pay for a higher minimum wage, a plurality, 38 percent, said companies would primarily charge higher prices, 32 percent said they would primarily lay off workers, and 24 percent said companies would reduce executive salaries and enjoy lower profits.

Republicans were more than 20 points more likely than Democrats to believe raising the minimum wage would cost consumers or employees, 83 percent to 60 percent. While Republicans were 8 points more likely to think it would result in higher prices (44 to 36 percent), they were signficanlty more likely to believe it would harm employment (39 to 24 percent) than Democrats.

These data help explain the high support for a minimum wage increase:  a majority of Americans are not yet convinced that raising the minimum wage could cost jobs. And they would be willing to pay higher prices if that were required.

Another reason public support remains high is that some people who already believe a minimum wage hike would harm jobs appear to forget when first asked if they would support a wage increase. For instance, among those who reveal they believe raising the minimum wage would reduce jobs, 38% initially support a minimum wage hike if job losses are not mentioned in the question wording.  However, when jobs costs were mentioned in the follow-up question, support plummets to 17 percent among this group. These data emphasize the importance of "top of mind" considerations when the public is making policy trade-offs. The more the media emphasizes possible costs, the more salient these cost considerations become.

Assuming no cost to jobs, majorities of Democrats (86 percent) and independents (66 percent) favor raising the minimum wage. Republicans are the only political group that opposes it 58 to 41 percent. However, just a few months ago a majority of Republicans favored raising the minimum wage.

Support for Minimum Wage Increase Declines Among Republicans and Millennials

Despite Republican opposition today, a majority of Republicans recently supported a minimum wage increase. In December 2013, Reason-Rupe found that a majority of Republicans supported raising the minimum wage 55 to 40 percent.  However, in April 2014 support declined to 41 percent and opposition rose to 58 percent.

Republicans aren't the only ones who have begun to sour on the minimum wage increase. Support among young Americans (under 35 years old) has also declined 12 points from from 79 percent in December 2013 to 67 percent in April 2014, but support has remained consistent among older Americans.

Back in December a solid majority, 64 percent, of young Republicans supported raising the minimum wage, compared to 49 percent in April 2014. However, among Republicans over 55, support has remained roughly consistent with 43 percent in support in December and 42 percent in April. While margins of error are larger for these smaller subgroups, these data suggest that the Republican shift occurred particularly among younger partisans.

Overall support for raising the wage has slightly declined from 72 percent in December 2013 to 67 percent in April 2014, but still within the poll's margin of error.

It is possible that the CBO report finding that raising the minimum wage would lift about 900,000 out of poverty but also cost about half a million jobs has reduced support, particularly among young people. Moreover, President Obama's promotion of the wage increase has likely also driven up opposition among Republicans.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 26-30 2014 interviewed 1003 adults on both mobile (503) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.6%. 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.