A huge majority of Americans want a $15 minimum wage, but they waver after hearing its economic impact

Nancy PelosiHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gestures during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • An overwhelming majority of respondents in a new INSIDER poll indicated they would support a $15 minimum wage, highlighting how a progressive priority has gained support across the ideological spectrum.
  • But support declined markedly among self-identified Democrats and self-identified Republicans when they were told of a possible impact on the American economy.
  • In other words, Americans are largely comfortable with sweeping ideas like $15 minimum wage or "Medicare-for-All" that could improve their lives - but they start to waver when they understand some of its possible trade-offs.
  • The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 and it hasn't been raised in a decade. Last month marked the longest period in American history without a wage increase.
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An overwhelming majority of respondents in a new INSIDER poll indicated they would support a $15 minimum wage, highlighting how a progressive priority has gained support across the ideological spectrum. But support declined markedly among self-identified Democrats and self-identified Republicans when they were told of its possible impact on the American economy.

The broad support is good news for House Democrats. They voted 231-199 on Thursday to gradually lift the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, delivering on a priority that's long been popular among their liberal base. But the bill is not expected to advance in the GOP-led Senate, where Republicans argue it would kill jobs and stymie economic gains made under President Donald Trump's time in office.

The vote follows a report released last week from the Congressional Budget Office projecting that a $15 minimum wage could lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, but also put an equal number of Americans out of work. It also projected that raising the minimum wage would boost pay for 27 million workers.

Read more: A government report found that if the US raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour it would eliminate 1.3 million jobs - but also lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty

The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 and it hasn't been raised in a decade. Last month marked the longest period in American history without a wage increase, according to the Economic Policy Institute. But with wages stagnant, the $15 minimum wage has become a political priority among Democrats: Nearly all the primary candidates have endorsed it.

In our poll, we asked over 1,100 respondents about their views on raising the minimum wage and its possible impact, per the CBO report. Whe did this by asking two separate questions.

The first question, "Do you support or oppose increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour?" intended to determine whether the respondent liked the broad policy change of hiking the minimum wage.

Overall, a total 63% of respondents supported or strongly supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, with the strongest supporters being on the left, and only 22% opposed. Around 81% of respondents who self-identified as Democratic primary voters support or strongly support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Only 10% opposed or strongly opposed it and 7% neither supported nor opposed it. One % responded, "I don't know."

The second question asked more about the broader policy implications of the minimum wage hike, per the CBO. Much later in the survey, respondents were asked:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that a proposed policy would have the following impacts: Pay increases for 27 million workers, 1.3 million households lifted out of poverty, however, a median projection of 1.3 million job losses.

Based on those benefits and costs alone, would you support or oppose that policy proposal?

After being told that "a proposed policy" to raise the minimum wage could lead to 1.3 million job losses, people were considerably less enthusiastic. 37% of respondents would support a policy with those implications, considerably down from 63% who back a $15 minimum wage.

However, while some were turned off by the policy - 25% percent oppose, up from the 22% who oppose the $15 minimum wage - more simply became neutral on the topic or said they didn't know how they'd feel, a group that constitutes 37% of the set compared to just 15% among the more unambiguous $15 per hour.

Indeed, only half of Democratic respondents still supported or strongly supported the generic measure. Then 16% opposed or strongly opposed it, and 24% neither supported nor opposed it. 9% said, "I don't know."

The same trend was visible among self-identified Republicans. 43% supported or strongly supported a $15 minimum wage while 40% opposed or strongly opposed the measure. 15% neither supported nor opposed it and 1% responded "I don't know."

Only 24% of Republican respondents supported or strongly supported it after being told that a policy to raise the wage would lead to the same job losses. Forty-four % opposed or strongly opposed it while 26% neither supported nor opposed it. Six % said, "I don't know."

Read more: A minimum-wage worker needs 1.5 jobs just to afford half the rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in most of the US

The INSIDER results are reminiscent of other polling conducted on "Medicare-for-all," a popular idea among progressive Democrats that's gained traction among eight candidates including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two primary frontrunners. Many voters back creating a government-run healthcare system. But support plummets when they learn they could pay higher taxes or face longer waiting periods before seeing a doctor.

In other words, Americans are largely comfortable with sweeping ideas like $15 minimum wage or "Medicare-for-All" that could improve their lives - but they start to waver when they understand some of its possible trade-offs.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn't try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,006 respondents collected July 9 to July 10 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.15 percentage points with a 95% confidence level. See this page for more details about methodology.

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