First-Ever Poll of Workers Who Make Less Than $15 Shows 72% Support for Unions  


As 2016 race kicks into high gear, wide support for candidates who
back $15 and a union

NEW YORK (October 6) – Seventy-two percent of underpaid workers approve of labor unions, and 75 percent support a $15 minimum wage and a union—the goals of the Fight for $15 movement that has set a new standard for pay across the nation—according to the first-ever poll of workers paid less than $15 an hour.

The poll, released Monday by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), was conducted using leading survey platforms Harris Interactive and YouGov and follows on an April 2015 NELP study that found 42 percent of workers in the nation are paid less than $15 an hour. With the presidential campaign season heating up and Democrats convening next week for their first candidate debate, the poll looks at the voting preferences of this critical demographic of underpaid workers:

  • 69 percent of unregistered respondents say they would register to vote if there were a presidential candidate who supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and making it easier for workers to join a union;
  • 65 percent of registered voters say they are more likely to vote if a candidate supports $15 and a union for all workers; and
  • 69 percent of respondents favor raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The poll is the latest in a band of research demonstrating growing public support for unions and the importance of unions in the economic recovery. A recent Gallup Organization poll found a sharp uptick—to 58 percent—in approval of labor unions amongst the general population; the poll released today shows a significantly higher level of support among underpaid workers—higher than any Gallup study has recorded for the general population since 1959:

  • 72 percent of underpaid workers approve of unions;
  • 69 percent say it should be easier for workers like themselves to join together and form a union;
  • 72 percent believe unions can make a real difference in whether or not workers like themselves get raises;
  • 66 percent say they would have a better chance of making $15 an hour and being able to support their families if they could join a union; and
  • Support for $15 and a union is particularly strong in the South: 77 percent of Southern respondents expressed support.

“We’ve long known that unions help create good jobs and boost the economy, and now we know that underpaid workers share that view as well,” said NELP Executive Director Christine Owens. “An overwhelming majority want $15 and a union—and a president who will stand behind them in support of these basic rights. Underpaid workers in our country are a powerful force to be reckoned with in the workplace and the voting booth.”

The poll notably found that half of all respondents have heard of the Fight for $15—affirming the power of a fast-growing movement that started less than three years ago when 200 fast-food workers walked off the job. By comparison, 52 percent of Americans say they have heard of Muhammad Ali.

The study was designed by Maryland-based public opinion polling firm Victoria Research & Consulting and conducted in August and September of 2015. To accurately locate underpaid workers across the country, a highly mobile population, polling was conducted entirely online, with responses collected via mobile phone, tablet, or computer. The 2,284 respondents were U.S. citizens, worked at least 10 hours per week, and were paid less than $15 an hour, or $31,000 per year for salaried positions. The margin of error for the Harris Panel is 2.3 percent with 95 percent confidence level; margin of error for YouGov Omnibus is plus or minus 2.0 percent.

DOWNLOAD: Underpaid Worker Poll Results Memo

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