80% of Americans think the federal minimum wage is too low, new poll finds

  • An Amazon/Ipsos poll found 80% of Americans believe the current federal minimum wage isn’t sufficient.
  • It’s only the latest poll to show popular support for a minimum wage increase.
  • The poll echoed prior research, finding women and workers of color are more likely to earn under $15.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal minimum wage increase didn’t make it into the American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed into law last week, but the majority of Americans still believe a $7.25 minimum wage is too low.

A new Amazon/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday found that 80% of Americans believe the current federal minimum wage is not sufficient, with two in three who have an opinion on the topic supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Amazon has previously advocated for a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, and the poll found that two in three Americans want large companies to play a role in pushing for a minimum wage increase.

“America has hope that 2021 will be a year of recovery,” the poll said. “Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour will help supercharge that recovery and help those who need it most. Boosting the income of those at the bottom end of the pay scale means that, instead of just trying to survive, they have the opportunity to participate in the economic recovery.”

Here are the other main findings of the poll:

  • Eight in ten Americans don’t know the actual amount of the current federal minimum wage;
  • People who earn less than $15 an hour are more likely to be women, people of color, people living in rural areas, and people with less formal educations;
  • 70% of Americans say a wage increase would have a positive impact on employees, with 55% saying it will positively impact the country;
  • And those who make less than $15 an hour are significantly less likely to be satisfied with aspects of life — jobs, income, and ability to pay bills — than those making $15 an hour or more.

The push for a federal minimum wage increase has remained controversial among lawmakers. Although Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and other progressive lawmakers, failed to pass a wage increase in the stimulus, he is continuing to fight for future legislation that will raise the wage to help working Americans.

“There is nowhere — I repeat, NOWHERE — in the United States where a full-time worker being paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 can make ends meet. That is a disgrace,” Sanders said on Twitter on March 4. “It is far past time that we raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and give millions of workers a raise.”

Meanwhile, moderate and conservative lawmakers, like Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have pushed against an increase to $15 an hour, citing the potential impact on the labor market.

“I would amend it to $11,” Manchin told reporters. “We can do $11 in two years and be in a better position than they’re going to be with $15 in five years.”

A $15 minimum wage has already had broad popular support — and could impact millions of workers

An Insider poll from February showed that more than 60% of respondents would definitely or probably support a $15 minimum wage. That echoed Insider’s 2019 polling, where 63% of respondents supported or strongly supported an increase to $15 per hour.

A minimum-wage hike would impact 32 million workers, according to an analysis from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Around one in three Black workers and about one in four Latino workers would benefit from the raise; almost 60% of workers who would benefit are women, with women of color seeing a particular boost. Those are all groups who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic devastation.

Raising the minimum wage could also ease the strain on social safety net programs. A study from the University of California at Berkeley found that low wages cost taxpayers more than $100 billion a year.

One main concern that has emerged in the minimum wage debate is the potential impact on employment, with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projecting that an increase could lead to the loss of 1.4 million workers while lifting 900,000 people out of poverty.

However, not all economists are so sure about those employment projections. According to recent report from Morgan Stanley, “the wealth of research points to no definitive conclusion on the impact higher wages have on employment.” 

While the impact to employment may not a cause for alarm, Morgan Stanley highlighted other important aspects to consider.

“The social benefits to lifting real wages of lower-income earners and millions out of poverty are substantial.”

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