2013 National Poll of Political issues:

New UMass Poll Shows Strong Support for Increased Minimum Wage and Assault Weapons Ban

March 18, 2013

Toplines: http://www.umass.edu/poll/pdfs/20130318_Data.pdf

Crosstabs: http://www.umass.edu/poll/pdfs/20130318_Crosstabs.pdf

AMHERST, Mass. – The results of a new national UMass Poll released today show strong public support for an assault weapons ban and a broad consensus in favor of a higher federal minimum wage. Additionally, President Barack Obama enjoys high personal favorability, while Speaker John Boehner is viewed as equally unfavorable.

Respondents were asked about a variety of topics, including which issues they viewed as most important, about how favorably they view various government officials, and their personal views on a number of hot-topic issues such as minimum wage, gun control, the Voting Rights Act, and immigration. The poll also took a somewhat unique visual approach to a handful of issues questions, showing a random set of respondents images relating to the issue at hand.

When asked whether they support or oppose a proposed ban on assault weapons, overall support for an assault weapons ban is strong, with 53 percent of Americans expressing support for the ban and 31 percent opposed. Those shown a photo of an AR-15 rifle along with the question responded at a higher rate in support of a ban (57 percent) than those not shown the photo (51 percent).

“It isn’t always clear what Americans have in mind when they are asked to evaluate a ban on assault weapons,” said Brian Schaffner, chair of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and director of the UMass Poll. “Showing an image of an assault weapon did increase support for the ban.”

Regarding the federal minimum wage, a bipartisan consensus believes that the floor for hourly pay should be higher, nearly matching the $9/hour recommended by President Obama.

Jesse Rhodes, assistant professor of political science at UMass Amherst, said “There seems to be across the board support for a minimum wage that is higher than what we have today, though how much higher is a matter of some debate as Republicans would like to see a much more modest increase than Democrats.”

Another question with a visual element polled concerns about voting lines on election day. Respondents were asked to rank the importance of the issue, and were either shown an image of black voters standing in a long line, a photo of white voters standing in a long line, or no image at all. Overall, and in most subsets of respondents, significantly less people found the issue “very important” when shown the image of black voters, although the numbers for “somewhat important” generally increased when shown the same image.

On immigration, Americans seem to vastly over-estimate how many illegal immigrants come to the U.S. in a given year.

“These results suggest that rhetoric concerning the ‘invasion’ of illegal immigrants may have influenced the manner in which Americans think about the scale of both illegal and legal immigration to the U.S,” stated Tatishe Nteta, assistant professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. “Regardless, while most Americans view the United States as a ‘nation of immigrants,’ our results indicate that a substantial portion of the public desires an ebb to the flow of new legal immigrants coming to our shores.”

When surveyed about their opinions of government officials (“What is your opinion of the following individuals?”) with the options of Very Favorable, Favorable, Unfavorable, Very Unfavorable, and Not Sure:

The poll of 800 adults was conducted March 11-14 by YouGov America under the direction of UMass Poll . YouGov was rated as one of the most accurate pollsters of the 2012 election by Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com. The margin of error for the poll is 5 percent. The margin of error would be larger for subpopulations.

Jared Sharpe, 413/545-3809, jsharpe@admin.umass.edu
Brian Schaffner, schaffne@polsci.umass.edu
Raymond La Raja, laraja@polsci.umass.edu
Tatishe Nteta, nteta@polsci.umass.edu
Jesse Rhodes, rhodes@polsci.umass.edu