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7 Out of 10 Americans Want a Higher Minimum Wage, Even If It Means Higher Menu Prices

New poll suggests diners are overwhelmingly in favor of a $10 minimum wage

Steve Mason/Getty Images

A majority of Americans believe the minimum wage should be raised, even if it means they’ll have to pay more for their meals when dining out. That’s according to a recent poll conducted on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, the Intercept reports.

The hospitality industry’s biggest lobbying group — often called the other NRA — is famously conservative and has spoken out against raising the minimum wage on numerous occasions. The group is likely not too pleased with the outcome of this poll, which was orchestrated by long-time Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

Results of the poll, which were presented on a slidedeck obtained by the Intercept, indicated that 71 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10, “even if it also increases the cost of food and service to customers.” Twenty-nine percent said they would prefer to keep the minimum wage the same, “even if the average food service employee can’t make ends meet.”

The data also offers insight into some of the alternative arguments the NRA presents in lieu of a minimum wage hike, such as the idea of putting an end to taxing tips so employees would have more take-home pay (35 percent of those polled, the largest percentage in agreement, support this). Though the NRA called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, saying that restaurants should not be required to provide employees with health insurance because it “discourage[s] restaurants from expanding and limit[s] the degree to which they can hire additional employees,” 32 percent of those polled support increasing funding for employee healthcare benefits.

The presentation also reveals the effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of messaging that the NRA uses to try to undercut public support for a minimum wage hike, such as the idea that businesses will shutter as a result of wage hikes. When a statement was phrased to emphasize the tight margins restaurants operate under, and note that a wage hike would likely cause small businesses to close, 40 percent of people surveyed said they would oppose a minimum wage increase.

But, while the NRA says raising the minimum wage would cause restaurants’ labor costs to skyrocket and “result in thousands of jobs lost,” not much evidence supports that stance: A University of California at Berkeley study from 2017, for example, indicated that despite raising its minimum wage to $13 (now $15), the city of Seattle raised wages for low-paid workers without costing jobs.

Also of note: A majority of those surveyed — 62 percent — said they have more confidence in small, local restaurants than they do in large groups like the NRA. And while low-income foodservice workers are fighting for an extra three to five dollars per hour, the NRA’s CEO earns more than $1,800 per hour.

The Restaurant Industry Ran a Private Poll on the MInimum Wage [The Intercept]