Two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, according to a new poll. The federal minimum wage rose in 2009 to $7.25, which amounts to about $15,000 a year.
"This poll is yet another affirmation that maintaining a strong minimum wage is a core American value," said National Employment Law Project director Christine Owens in a statement. "Americans overwhelmingly support a minimum wage rate that will help working families make ends meet and provide the boost the economy needs for full recovery."
The survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute to plumb American attitudes on religion, values, and politics, found that 67 percent of respondents favor hiking the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Even a majority of Republicans -- 51 percent -- favor the higher minimum wage. But among people who identified themselves as belonging to the Tea Party, 50 percent oppose raising the minimum wage and only 47 percent favor doing so.
The minimum wage, first instituted in the 1930s, would be above $10 today already if it had kept pace with inflation, according to NELP.
A handful of Republican candidates in recent weeks have suggested the minimum wage needs another look. It's an issue Democrats would be more than happy to fight about.
"When you talk about taking a run at the minimum wage, it seriously undermines any efforts that we want to have to address or redress our disparities," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in an interview with HuffPost on Tuesday. "And it's a challenge to our sense of community that people could think it would be okay to start going backward. These were fights of 100 years ago."
Just 980,000 U.S. workers earn exactly the minimum wage, and 2.6 million earn less, according to the Labor Department. Those groups make up just 4.9 percent of hourly-paid workers. The progressive Economic Policy Institute estimated (PDF) that an additional 1.6 million workers making slightly more than the minimum would benefit from the 2009 increase due to "spillover effects" that preserve the wage structure in a firm.