By an overwhelming margin (83% to 14%), the American public favors raising the federal minimum wage a hefty $2 an hour. And nearly half (49%) say they strongly support such an increase. While there are differences in the extent of support across political and socioeconomic lines, raising the minimum wage receives widespread support from both Republicans and Democrats, wealthy and poor. The federal minimum wage was last raised to the current $5.15-an-hour in 1997. However, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have passed legislation requiring employers to pay wages higher than the federal minimum. Already this year four states (Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan and Rhode Island) have committed to minimum wage increases. Ten states have now enacted laws that set the minimum wage at $7.15 or higher. This includes changes set to take effect by January 1, 2007 in New York, New Jersey and Hawaii, along with the recent bills passed in Michigan and Rhode Island. In the other 11 jurisdictions with above-federal minimums, the floor for hourly wages currently ranges from $6.15 in Delaware, Maryland and Minnesota, to $7.00 in the District of Columbia. While state mandates differ, public opinion on the issue does not. In the 30 states where the federal $5.15 minimum applies, 82% say they support a $2-increase to $7.15, while just 16% are opposed. In states where a minimum wage of $7.15 or more has already been passed, 88% are in favor, a difference that is not statistically significant. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.