PhotoConsumers agree on the need for higher minimum wage -- but how high?


A new Harris Poll finds a large majority of those asked (72%) think the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is lower than it should be. However, while they clearly believe it should be higher, exactly how high is a more contentious subject.


When told that some U.S. cities have introduced programs to raise their minimum wage rates to $15.00 per hour over the next few years, 59% of U.S. adults -- crossing regional, political, generational, gender and income lines -- say that's at least somewhat higher than it should be.


Divergence of opinion


But not everyone feels this way. While majorities of Republicans (81%) and Independents (62%) say $15.00 per hour is more than the minimum wage should be, only 4 in 10 Democrats (41%) share this perspective, slightly behind the percentage who think it’s about right (43%).


While resistance to this level of compensation likely has many causes, one that may be weighing on adults’ minds is concern over their own bottom lines: eight in 10 consumers (81%) believe a higher minimum wage would increase costs for consumers.


When presented with key provisions from the New York State wage board’s recent recommendation to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour for fast food workers at chains with more than 30 locations, sentiments were mixed toward many elements of it.


Just over half of those asked (53%) support the end-of-2018 deadline for reaching this wage rate in 2018, while just over half (52%) oppose the mid-2021 statewide deadline. But ultimately consumers most take issue with the divergent standards these dates represent. Six in 10 U.S. adults (60%) oppose New York City and the rest of the state reaching a $15.00 per hour minimum wage at different times.


A 55% majority opposes the recommendation’s focus on workers in the fast food industry, while a narrow 52% majority opposes its focus on chains with 30 or more locations.


Big picture


Stepping back from which cities are planning what wage hikes and looking at these issues more broadly, a resounding 87% of U.S. adults agree -- 52% strongly so -- that raising the minimum wage only for fast food workers is unfair to workers in other industries.


Majorities also agree that all workers should be entitled to the same minimum wage, regardless of what industry they’re in (76%) and that all employers should be required to pay the same minimum wage regardless of company size (69%).


Fewer than 3 in ten (28%) say there should not be a minimum wage requirement at all.


Circling back to the contentious $15.00 figure, when asked directly whether they agree or disagree that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.00 per hour nationwide, consumers are divided down the middle at 50% each. Even drilling down to “strongly” agree and disagree responses reveals an all but even divide, with 29% strongly agreeing and 28% strongly disagreeing.


Nearly three-fourths of Democrats (73%) agree that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.00 per hour nationwide, while nearly 8 in 10 Republicans (79%) and over half of Independents (55%) disagree.


Divides also exist by generation and income:

  • 58% of Millennials agree, while Gen Xers are divided (49% agree, 51% disagree) and majorities of Baby Boomers (55%) and Matures (56%) disagree.
  • Roughly 6 in 10 (59%) of those who would be affected most by such a move -- those in households earning under $50,000 per year -- agree with the concept, while majorities of those in households earning $75,000 per year or more disagree (61% of those earning $75k-$100k, 59% of those earning $100k or more) disagree.

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