President Obama will no doubt face resistance in his call for raising the minimum wage at his State of the Union on Tuesday, but public opinion shows most Americans are in favor of it.
According to a recent Pew Research Center-USA Today survey, 73 percent of the public favors raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
Also, 63 percent back a one-year extension of unemployment benefits for those who’ve been out of work a long time. Both issues receive nearly unanimous support from Democrats and are favored by wide margins among independents, though they divide the GOP.
The survey, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, found that 65 percent believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years. This view is shared by majorities across nearly all groups in the public, including 68 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans.
On the other hand, when Pew in a separate poll asked which issues should be a “top priority” for the president and Congress, the share of respondents who chose helping the poor and needy fell by 8 percentage points from a year ago. That’s the second-greatest decrease among the 20 issues presented.
The only issue to experience a greater drop in public concern over the past year was reducing the budget deficit.
The share of respondents who put helping the poor and needy among the federal government’s top priorities is now below 50 percent for the first time since 2003.
Small-business owners, meanwhile, are divided on the issue, according to a CNNMoney-Manta survey.
About 49 percent of the 1,278 respondents to the survey said they do not support a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. About 44 percent said they support the proposal. The remaining 7 percent were unsure.
Many owners who supported a wage hike say they don't believe their workers can live on minimum wage and already pay them more. About 95 percent of respondents agreed that $7.25 is not a living wage and only 7 percent said they pay any of their workers that hourly rate or the minimum set by their state, which can be higher.