Americans overwhelmingly favor raising the federal minimum wage, suggesting the issue could be one that gives Democrats some momentum heading into the 2014 midterm elections.
According to a National Journal poll, support for raising the current wage of $7.25 an hour is broad-based, crossing all income levels. Only about one-quarter of those surveyed believe raising the rate would harm the economy.
According to the poll, 71 percent of Americans said the wage should be boosted, with a substantial number of those surveyed—39 percent—backing a hike to $10 an hour. What's more, 27 percent believe the rate should be even higher.
And while support for a wage hike is highest among those who earn $30,000 annually or less (79 percent), respondents who earn between $30,000 and $75,000 and those who earn more than $75,000 also support raising the wage in large numbers—at 74 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Support is highest among African-Americans (91 percent) and women (74 percent).
While 28 percent of those surveyed believe raising the wage would harm the economy, nearly half (48 percent) said it would act as a stimulant.
Democrats and independents overwhelming favor an increase, with support touching 92 percent and 70 percent, respectively. But about half of Republicans supported a minimum wage hike.
That could be important in 2014 as Democrats try to make the minimum wage an election-year argument. President Obama proposed hiking the wage to $9 an hour in his State of the Union address. House Republicans this spring voted down a measure to hike the wage to $10.10 an hour—a measure Obama now says he supports. The White House recently has pivoted back to the issue, both because of growing pressure from the progressive base to take action and its need to shift the conversation away from the tumultuous rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Senate Democrats are expected to try to advance a bill that would raise the wage to $10.10 early in the new year in advance of the midterm elections, but they will have difficulty finding support from Republicans in the chamber.
Congress last passed a minimum-wage hike in 2007, when George W. Bush was in the White House. And while lawmakers have failed to act since then, a number of states haven't waited. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island all passed increases this year. Montgomery and Prince George's counties in suburban Maryland and the District of Columbia are on course to eventually raise the wage locally to $11.50 an hour.
The poll was conducted by landline and cell-phone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from Dec. 12-15. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
This article appears in the December 18, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.