Poll Shows Americans Are Conflicted Over Equal Pay Laws

04/15/2014 07:33 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2014

Here's where the push for equal pay laws may hit a snag: Many Americans agree women have fewer opportunities at work, but few think the answer lies in new laws, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.

President Barack Obama has made the passage of legislation to combat the wage gap between American men and women a key issue this year, but so far Republicans in Congress have prevented any large scale action. Last Tuesday Obama signed an executive order increasing accountability for federal contractors in order to prevent wage discrimination. The next day GOP senators blocked consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase reporting requirements for a broader range of employers.

On the one hand, the new survey shows Americans tend to think that employment opportunities are not equal for men and women. Forty-six percent of respondents said they think men have more opportunities than women in most workplaces, while 40 percent said women and men have the same chances. Seven percent said women have more opportunities.

On the other hand, only 32 percent said new legislation is needed to combat that problem. Thirty-seven percent said current laws are about right. Few dislike the measures already on the books, though. Only 11 percent said they wanted to repeal existing laws.

The poll found divisions of opinion along gender and party lines -- although the belief that women have fewer opportunities consistently exceeded the belief that new legislation is the answer.

Sixty percent of Democrats, 40 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans said women have fewer opportunities. Fifty-two percent of Democrats, but only 27 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans, think we need new laws.

Sixty-one percent of women said they think men have more opportunities in most workplaces, while only 30 percent of men said the same. Women were also slightly more likely to say that new laws are needed (38 percent) than that existing laws are enough (30 percent). Men were more likely to say that existing laws are enough (44 percent) than that new laws are needed (25 percent).

A lot of Americans also judge their workplace fairer than the generic "most workplaces," though again there was a gulf between the sexes. Sixty percent of self-identified working men, but only 48 percent of self-identified working women, said their own workplace had equal opportunities. Sixty-nine percent of working men, but only 44 percent of working women, said men and women are generally paid the same for the same work by their own employer.

The poll also found a divide between men and women in terms of what factors they think cause the national wage gap. Forty-one percent of women, but only 24 percent of men, said that less opportunity for women plays a role in the pay gap. Nearly half of Democrats said this was a factor, but only a quarter of independents and Republicans agreed.

Relatively few of either gender or party, however, think that unequal opportunity is the biggest factor behind the wage gap. Majorities of men (59 percent), women (58 percent), Democrats (55 percent), Republicans (56 percent) and independents (63 percent) all said the single biggest factor driving the wage gap is that men and women choose to take different jobs.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted April 4-6 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

Also on HuffPost:

Politicians Who Look Like Disney Characters

YOU MAY LIKE

CONVERSATIONS