Cautious support for Seattle's $15 minimum wage

June 09, 2014, 11:47 AM GMT+0

Americans tend to support Seattle's move to raise the minimum wage to $15, but perceptions of whether a higher minimum wage is actually good for workers differ significantly

Last week Seattle's city council broke new ground by passing a law to institute one of the highest minimum wages in the country. The minimum wage in the city will slowly increase to $15 an hour over the course of the coming three to seven years, depending on the size of the business and whether or not employers offer health insurance. Raising the minimum wage has become a major focal point of political activity for left-wing organizations and politicians, with President Obama calling for the federal minimum wage to rise to $10.10 from its current level of $7.25 an hour.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans tend to approve (47%) rather than disapprove (36%) of Seattle's decision to raise the minimum wage to $15. Democrats overwhelmingly support (71%) the move, while Republicans oppose (65%) it. Independents narrowly support (44%) rather than oppose (37%) Seattle's $15 minimum wage.

Support for increasing the minimum wage does differ significantly according to political identity, something that may be explained by different perceptions of the impact of higher minimum wages. The main criticism of higher minimum wages is that it will increase unemployment among the low paid and make it harder for people to get jobs in the first place. This argument is embraced by most Republicans, 58% of whom say that higher minimum wages will hurt workers by making businesses hire less. Independents tend to say that a higher minimum wage is better (45%) than worse (36%) for workers, while Democrats overwhelmingly view a higher minimum wage as good for workers (74%).

Whether or not higher minimum wages do actually negatively impact employment is a matter of some controversy among economists, though most studies show that the impact is either small or non-existent with few showing significant changes in unemployment rates.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty