Published December 11, 2013
Less than a week after fast- food workers across the country went on strike to support a $15 minimum wage, a new poll finds the majority of Americans also favor a pay increase—just not that much.
A survey from the Wall Street Journal/NBC News finds 63% of respondents support a rise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25. The last time the federal wage was increased was in 2007. Democrats in the Senate and President Obama both support an increase to $10.10 an hour.
The poll finds less support for the $15 minimum wage protestors would like, with just 28% backing that figure. Close to half (43%) report they would back a $12.50 an hour minimum wage.
Gary Burtless, senior economist at the Brookings Institution, says the poll comes as no surprise as many Americans support action to improve the wellbeing of low-income people.
“Ever since the 1980s, when the federal minimum wage dipped so low in terms of purchasing power and not reflecting changes in the economy, it has not been raised enough,” Burtless says.
With that said, he isn’t hopeful that the workers and unions pushing to more than double the current federal minimum wage to $15 an hour will get what they want in the near future.
“It will not happen at a national level unless Congress is turned out of office and replaced by a new cast of characters. I cannot see any scenario in which the GOP leaders in the house would allow a vote to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 in the next few years.”
However, he says some states might be willing to raise wages.
New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $8.25 this past November, and Washington D.C.’s council members said in late November they would support a bill to boost the city’s minimum wage by 40% in the next three years, eventually hitting $11.50 an hour, according to the Washington Post.
“This has an effect in localities and on the state level,” Burtless says. “That often happens when the federal minimum wage languishes. States with more progressive legislatures and governors will raise the minimum wage there to offset that fact.”