$15 minimum wage more divisive than smaller increases

July 30, 2015, 2:47 PM GMT+0

Support for a higher minimum wage is widespread, but $15 an hour might be a step too far for many Republicans

The first statewide $15 minimum wage is set to be imposed in New York state, though at this point only fast food workers will be covered by the wage hike. Increasing the minimum wage has become a major cause among labor unions and liberal activists, and New York's fast food industry joins cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles that have passed laws increasing their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Democratic leaders have widely called for a higher minimum wage, though many have shied away from $15 an hour. President Obama, in the 2014 State of the Union, called for the minimum wage to be increased to $10.10 an hour.

YouGov's latest research shows that most Americans (54%) support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and just under half the country (48%) support increasing it to $15 an hour. 35% oppose increasing it to $10.10, while 42% oppose it going up to $15. Among both Democrats and independents support for a $15 minimum wage is essentially the same as support for the $10.10 minimum wage, but Republicans are different. 42% of Republicans support a $10.10 minimum wage (while 45% oppose it), but only 18% of Republicans support a $15 minimum wage while 73% oppose it.

24% of Americans support a $20 minimum wage, but most Americans (59%) oppose it. Even among Democrats 48% are opposed to a $20 wage and 31% favor it.

On the other hand 47% back a $9 minimum wage (the level Obama backed in 2013) and 39% oppose it. This lower support than for the $10.10 and $15 minimum wage is largely due to lower Democratic support, as only 53% support $9, indicating that some view it as insufficient.

Opponents of higher minimum wage laws argue that increasing the legal minimum will increase unemployment among low income workers. Many Americans are sympathetic to this argument when it comes to a $15 minimum wage. 43% of Americans believe that a $15 minimum wage would increase unemployment, while 21% believe it will have no effect and 18% say that it would cut unemployment.

When Americans are asked whether it is more important to raise the minimum wage or to prevent unemployment among low income workers, most people who support a $15 minimum wage (57%) say that increasing the minimum wage is their priority. 31% of people who support a $15 an hour do say, however, that it is more important to them that low income unemployment is prevented than that the minimum wage is increased.

Most Americans (74%) say that they have worked for the minimum wage at some point in their life, but Democrats (49%) are much more likely than either independents (35%) or Republicans (29%) to say that they currently have a close friend or family member working for minimum wage.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.