August 20, 2013

Sharp divisions in GOP base on raising the minimum wage

FT_Wage_HikeProposals to raise the minimum wage, both nationally and locally, have gotten increased attention in recent weeks. President Obama renewed his call for a higher federal minimum wage during a speech on the economy at Knox College in Illinois last month. And fast-food workers in several cities have held one-day strikes or walkouts to demand higher minimum wages locally.

The public has long supported increasing the minimum wage. In a February survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, 71% said they favored raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour, as Obama has proposed. Just 26% opposed raising the minimum wage. That is lower than the 84% who backed a higher minimum wage in January 2007, prior to the last increase in the minimum wage approved by Congress. (For more on this issue, see “Who makes minimum wage?” July 19, 2013.)

The proposal faces stiff opposition in Congress from Republicans, particularly in the House. After Obama called for raising the minimum wage in his State of the Union speech, House Speaker John Boehner said the action would cost jobs among lower-income workers (video from AP).

Overall, Republicans are evenly divided over raising the minimum wage (50% favor, 47% oppose). By contrast, large majorities of Democrats (87%) and independents (68%) support the minimum wage hike.

Within the GOP base, there are sharp educational and income differences over increasing the minimum wage. Six-in-ten (60%) Republicans and Republican-leaning college graduates oppose the proposal, while about the same percentage of Republicans who have not completed college (58%) favor it.

FT_GOP_WageHigher-income Republicans (those with family incomes of $75,000 or more) oppose a minimum wage hike by 57% to 40%. Republicans and GOP leaners with incomes of below $30,000 support it by about two-to-one (68% to 31%).

Tea Party Republicans (32% favor) are far less likely than those who do not agree with the Tea Party (60%) to support raising the minimum wage.

Democrats are far less divided internally. Fully 87% of higher income Democrats and Democratic leaners favor raising the minimum wage, as do 82% of those with lower incomes. And support for raising the minimum wage is nearly as extensive among conservative and moderate Democrats (83%) as among the party’s liberals (90%).

Topics: Work and Employment, Economic Policy, U.S. Political Parties, Domestic Affairs and Policy, Political Issue Priorities

  1. is a Research Analyst at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.