WASHINGTON -- A majority of Americans support policies that would improve equality for women in the workplace, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
The survey of likely 2014 voters, commissioned by American Women, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the Rockefeller Family Fund, found that most respondents support equal pay for women, workplace flexibility through paid sick and family leave and raising the minimum wage.
Not all of the findings were specific to women, but the poll highlighted several points to illustrate the public's opinion that women continue to face discrimination in the workplace. Fifty-four percent of voters -- including 44 percent of male respondents -- said they believe women face a harder time getting ahead in the workplace compared to men, although the poll found women are more convinced of the disparity.
Sixty percent of voters said they are more likely to support a candidate who supports fair pay for women, a higher minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. The survey also found that women are less likely to receive paid extended leave than men, as The Huffington Post reported last week.
Some of the lawmakers in Congress who have championed legislation to address equal pay for women and paid family and medical leave quickly responded to the survey. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), co-sponsors of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act -- which would establish paid family and medical leave for all workers -- said the poll proved Congress was out of step with the needs of today's working families.
"Paid leave is an earned benefit that should be available to every worker in America -- no matter how big a company you work for, whether you’re part-time, or self-employed -- and it costs less than the price of a cup of coffee a week," Gillibrand said in a statement. "When any one of us -- man or woman -- needs time to care for a dying parent -- we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family."
DeLauro issued her own statement, in which she said, "We all know that when women succeed, America succeeds and this poll shows that Americans want Congress to enact laws that will help them and their families."
The policy questions posed in the survey have risen to the national discourse this year, as Democrats in particular have honed in on issues such as the gender wage gap and income inequality in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections. President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address last month to denounce "Mad Men" era workplace policies for women and also reiterate his call for a minimum wage hike. The speech was widely regarded as Obama setting up a platform for his party to run on this year.
Following up on his major announcement in the speech, Obama signed an executive order Wednesday that raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contractors. A bill by which lawmakers would increase the wage floor to the same level has remained stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition. Of those surveyed in the poll, 60 percent said they favor increasing the minimum wage to $10.10, for all workers.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Huffington Post last month that 60 percent of those making minimum wage are women, and called on her Republican colleagues to overcome pressure from the tea party not to take up bills that the majority of Americans support.
"I say to the Republicans, take back your party," Pelosi said. "This isn't who you are, who you have been, what you have done for America, the 'Grand Ol' Party.' This is an ideological, over the cliff, extreme element that has captured control of the Republican Party in the House and dominates policy making."
Pelosi has spent recent months drawing attention to the "women's economic agenda" and is intent on keeping women's issues front and center in 2014. The Democratic leader already has ample polling to prove her party's advantage with women and minorities, and the latest survey will provide yet another avenue for her members to argue that most Americans back their broader agenda as well.
Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and The Feldman Group, Inc. conducted the poll from Jan. 24-29, 2014 among 1,000 likely 2014 voters.