When you think of heads of business, empathy isn’t the first word that pops to mind. When you think of chambers of commerce, you don’t expect to hear them support a higher minimum wage or paid leave for illness or a new child. However, a poll of 1,000 top-level U.S. business executives suggests some of those impressions may be misplaced.
According to the poll, nearly 80 percent of business executives support raising the minimum wage, while only 8 percent oppose a raise. Support is even higher for maternity and paternity leave and only slightly less for paid sick leave. Executives also expressed more support for "keeping health care costs low for American families” than repealing the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t consistent with how chambers of commerce across the country lobby on these issues.
The poll was commissioned by the Council of State Chambers and conducted by Luntz Global, which is headed by well known GOP pollster Frank Luntz. For understandable reasons, the poll didn’t see the light of day until The Center for Media and Democracy obtained a copy and made it public.
"The polled executives want to raise the wage, expand paid sick and maternity leave and support predictive scheduling,” the Center wrote on its website "Their desire to "keep health care costs low for American families" far outstrips their opposition to the Affordable Care Act."
Some of the disconnect between what these business leaders support and what chambers of commerce typically advocate can be explained by how the minimum wage and paid time off impact different business segments. Owners of fast food restaurants are likely to hold a more negative view than the CEO of a manufacturing firm that already pays wages above the higher minimum wage. Nearly half of the business executive respondents to the poll worked for or owned companies with annual revenues of between $50 and $500 million.
Beyond the shock value of the survey findings is the reality that business is not monolithic in its viewpoints. Even chamber of commerce members don’t always share the same view. Of the 1,000 executives interviewed by Luntz Global, 46 percent said they were members of their local chamber of commerce, 28 percent said they belonged to their state chamber and 16 percent said they were affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It may be too much of a leap to assume the business executive respondents reflect a hidden progressive strain in the C-suite. They may simply view issues such as a higher minimum wage or paid leave policies inevitable or public battles that are destined to lose. Or they may see these policies as basically fair, reflecting policies which they may have already adopted.
Critics of these policies and of the poll itself will say that you can make a poll say anything you want. Loaded questions can skew results, to be sure. But the source of this poll – an organization that serves chambers of commerce and a pollster that works for Republican candidates – probably didn’t slant the questions to fetch the results they got.