WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans support increasing the minimum wage, as well as requiring employers to provide paid sick leave and parental leave, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
All three were proposed by President Barack Obama during his recent State of the Union address as ways to increase protections for American workers. But the poll also found that most Americans don’t approve of the job Obama is doing helping the middle class.
Here are five things to know about public opinion on Obama’s workplace proposals:
PAID SICK LEAVE AND HIGHER WAGES GET STRONG SUPPORT
Proposals to increase the federal minimum wage, as well as to require employers to give paid leave to their employees, find few objections among Americans as a whole.
Six in 10 Americans favor raising the minimum wage, including nearly half who are strongly in favor, the AP-GfK Poll shows, while only 2 in 10 are opposed. Six in 10 also favor requiring all employers to give paid time off to employees when they are sick, while two-thirds favor requiring all employers to give time off to employees after the birth of a child.
Among Republicans, about half support requiring employers to give paid sick leave and 55 percent support a requirement for paid parental leave.
But the minimum wage divides Republicans more closely, with only 4 in 10 in favor, 31 percent opposed and 27 percent not leaning either way. Half of moderate-to-liberal Republicans, but just a third of conservative Republicans, favor a minimum wage increase.
About 8 in 10 Democrats and a majority of independents favor each of these workplace proposals.
MOST DISAPPROVE OF OBAMA’S HANDLING OF MIDDLE CLASS, POOR
Obama’s workplace proposals were part of a set of measures he says will help strengthen the middle class. Most Americans see that as a valuable goal, with 72 percent saying the government does too little to help the middle class. Slightly fewer — about 6 in 10 — say the government does too little to help the poor, and more than half think too little is done to help the unemployed.
(Two-thirds say the government is doing too much to help the wealthy.)
Those who think the government isn’t doing enough to help the middle class or the poor are especially likely to support raising the minimum wage and requiring companies to offer paid leave.
But the poll finds most Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling helping both groups. Still, the poll finds Americans tend to trust Democrats over Republicans to help the middle class by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, and trusted Democrats over the GOP to help the poor by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
FEWER SEE NEED FOR NEW GENDER EQUALITY LAWS
Forty-eight percent of Americans think current laws to ensure that men and women are treated equally in the workplace are about right, more than the 41 percent who think the government needs to enact more laws to ensure equal treatment. Another 7 percent would repeal existing laws.
Nearly half of women (48 percent) say the government needs more laws to ensure workplace equality between men and women, but only 35 percent of men say the same.
GENDER DIVIDES DEMOCRATS, MODERATES
Among Republicans, men and women are about equally unlikely to support additional workplace equality laws, with more than 6 in 10 Republicans of both men and women saying current laws are about right.
But among Democrats, women are more supportive of new workplace equality laws than men, 66 percent to 49 percent. Overall, about 6 in 10 Democrats say new laws are necessary.
Among those who consider themselves political moderates, too, there is a gender gap on the issue, with 53 percent of moderate women and only 32 percent of moderate men saying new laws are necessary.
MAJORITY FAVOR FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
More than half of Americans — 56 percent — favor a plan put forward by Obama for the government to pay for community college for any student who maintains a certain grade point average and makes progress toward earning a degree, the AP-GfK poll shows. Three-quarters of Democrats, half of independents and a third of Republicans favor the proposal.
Nearly half of moderate and liberal Republicans, but only 3 in 10 conservative Republicans, are in favor of the community college proposal.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans think the government doesn’t do enough to help students, the poll found.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,045 adults was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 2, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.