50 years after former President Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” a new poll from Quinnipiac University shows broad majorities of Americans support raising the minimum wage and extending emergency unemployment benefits, two policies commonly promoted by Democrats to alleviate poverty today in America.
The results could strengthen the case of Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House, who are currently locking horns with Republican colleagues over both issues.
By a margin of 71 to 27 percent, voters support raising the minimum wage, according to the survey. Even 52 percent of Republicans say the minimum wage should be lifted, while only 45 percent disagree.
33 percent say the wage floor should be lifted to $10.10 per hour. 18 percent would elect to increase it by a smaller sum, 18 percent say it should be higher than $10.10.
Curiously, a slim majority of voters (50 to 45 percent) also believe raising the minimum wage will lead employers to slash jobs, an argument frequently invoked by Republicans who oppose a wage hike.
And on the question of emergency unemployment insurance, by a margin of 58 to 37, voters said benefits should be extended by another three months.
Since federal unemployment insurance expired at the end of 2013, Democrats have been pushing for a three-month extension to ensure that the long-term jobless aren’t left out in the cold, but Republicans have resisted, arguing that the cost of the benefits should be offset elsewhere in the budget. They've also warned that continuing to extend jobless benefits could sap the initiative of job-seekers.
On Monday, the Senate voted to begin debate on a measure to extend unemployment benefits by three months. Although six Republicans joined with Democrats to begin debate on the bill, its ultimate fate is unclear amid GOP concerns about paying for the extension.
The Quinnipiac poll also delivers some (relatively) heartening news for President Obama: After a steep drop in his polls following the disastrous implementation of Obamacare, the president seems to have staunched the bleeding. At 41 to 53 percent, his job approval rating remains underwater, but it is slightly improved from the 38 to 57 percent spread he saw in December.
"The President returns to chilly Washington DC from his Hawaii holidays to a slightly warmer reception from American voters," explained Tim Malloy, the assistant director of Quinnipiac’s polling institute.
Quinnipiac’s poll surveyed 1,487 registered voters between January 4 and 7, and it carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.