Press Release

Unheard Third Poll: New Yorkers Feel “Stuck”

Support raising minimum wage, making college more affordable and enacting paid family leave

The vast majority of New Yorkers – nearly six out of ten city residents – say they feel “stuck” economically. As the legislative session draws to a close, New Yorkers think several measures still being debated in Albany could get them moving up again. When asked about strategies to help struggling New Yorkers, a majority of New Yorkers said increasing the minimum wage and access to college by making it more affordable would most help low-income New Yorkers get ahead.

These are among the findings of the latest Unheard Third poll, the Community Service Society’s annual survey of low-income New Yorkers, and the only public opinion poll in the nation that regularly tracks the concerns and hardships of New York City’s low-income residents.

According to the poll, New Yorkers feel their city and state governments could do more to help struggling New Yorkers get ahead economically. And they largely agree about the policies that would help expand economic mobility and create ladders of opportunity. In addition to increasing the minimum wage and making college more affordable, New Yorkers expressed strong support for paid family leave, strengthening rent regulations, and steps to expand affordable housing – all still among the unfinished business in Albany. Other policy ideas that draw widespread support include predictable scheduling of work hours and reduced bus and subway fares for low-income residents. 

“The lack of decent wages and labor standards, affordable housing, policies that support families and limited access to meaningful educational opportunities keep segments of our population stuck at the bottom,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “New Yorkers understand that, and want to see our city and state leaders address these problems. Despite that, and all the attention growing income inequality is drawing in the political debate, it remains to be seen if lawmakers in Albany can come together and act on these issues.”

A key finding from the poll was that three out of four New Yorkers support a $15 minimum wage, with two-thirds strongly favoring it. Among Democrats 86 percent supported a $15 minimum wage compared to 53 percent of Republicans. New York’s minimum wage will rise to $9.00 an hour in 2016. Gov. Cuomo has endorsed the idea of a higher minimum wage of $11.50 in New York City, and $10.50 for the rest of the state. Those rates are still well behind other cities that raised the minimum to $15, including Seattle, San Francisco and most recently, Los Angeles.

New York City residents also support giving the city the authority to set a minimum wage higher than for the state, something the governor has yet to support. Other key findings from the poll were:

  • A majority of respondents across political lines hold the view that low-income New Yorkers need better wages and benefits, as well as more opportunities to acquire the education and skills to obtain higher-paying jobs. Not one or the other.
  • Broad agreement across income and party lines on a set of policies that would spur upward mobility. They include policies now before the state legislature (e.g., raising minimum wage, paid family leave and strengthening tenant protections.)
  • New Yorkers are much more likely to see the de Blasio administration as benefitting the poor and middle class and Gov. Cuomo as the champion of business interests.

The Unheard Third survey is done in collaboration with Lake Research Partners. It was conducted from July 25 to August 21, 2014, and is based on responses from a total of 1,615 New York residents representing low, moderate and high income households. In reporting the findings for the total population, income groups are weighted to their correct proportion of the population.  The survey has a margin of error of+/-3.1 percentage points for the low-income sample and +/- 4 percentage points for the moderate and higher income sample.

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