Nearly six in 10 small business owners support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, according to a new poll on behalf of Small Business Majority (SBM), with most respondents citing the prospect of increased consumer demand and improved competitiveness with large chain retailers as reasons for their endorsement of the wage hike.
The poll found 57 percent of small business owners support a $10.10 federal minimum wage, with 27 percent strongly in favor of the idea. The entrepreneurs polled were predominantly Republican, with 47 percent identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning as compared to just 35 percent who identified more with the Democratic party. Two thirds of the businesses polled had less than half a million dollars in revenue in 2013, and 59 percent of the business owners were older than 50 years of age.
“I welcome a nationwide increase that would pay all workers enough to survive,” said Zach Davis, owner of The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, CA, on a call with reporters Thursday. “An increase to the minimum wage would allow us to compete far more effectively with bigger chains,” Davis added. That sentiment was echoed by Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of St. Louis-based Left Bank Books. “If big businesses have to pay an increased minimum wage as well, it would be much easier for us to compete for a talented workforce.”
Both entrepreneurs said they make it a point to pay above the current minimum wage already, and that higher wages would translate into more spending money in the pockets of their customers. That sentiment was common in the poll, with 52 percent of respondents saying that a wage hike would drive up consumer demand and boost their bottom line. Small, local shops that rely upon their surrounding communities for business are well positioned to appreciate the connection between worker pay and consumer spending, according to National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens.
“They’ve seen first-hand the effect of low wages at big chains starving communities of the resources they need,” Owens said.
The poll featured 600 small business owners randomly sampled by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR) in late February. GQR and SBM define “small businesses” as firms with fewer than 100 employees, but at least one employee other than the proprietor. Two out of three poll respondents had between two and five employees, and just 4 percent had more than 50 workers on staff.
That methodology gives the poll’s results a stronger connection to actual small business sentiment than much of the political rhetoric around small businesses, as past research has shown that the companies Republicans mean when they cite “small businesses” are often multi-million-dollar commercial and financial powerhouses that simply classify themselves as “small” for tax purposes.
The poll bolsters previous evidence of popular support for raising the minimum wage. Raising the federal pay floor to $10.10 an hour would restore minimum wage jobs to the buying power they had in the late 1960s, bring them a bit closer to reflecting workers’ productivity gains, boosting millions out of poverty and increasing economic activity by billions of dollars each year. It would also allow working people to stop relying on public assistance programs in the way they do currently, saving $46 billion in food stamps costs over the next decade and hundreds of billions of dollars each year across all federal anti-poverty programs.