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50% of Americans say congressional interns should be paid $15 an hour



Almost half of all Americans think congressional interns — the vast majority of whom are currently not compensated for their work — should be paid $15 an hour, according to a new INSIDER poll.

A large majority of liberals (68%) believe interns should make $15 an hour, while 49% of centrists and 31% of conservatives feel the same way. A third of all conservatives (33%) said it’s fine that many congressional internships are unpaid.

This comes after Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly criticized her future colleagues last week for underpaying staff and relying on unpaid interns, and pledged to pay her interns “at least” $15 an hour.

“Time to walk the walk,” the Democratic congresswoman-elect tweeted last Tuesday. “Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them.”

Poll respondents were asked two nearly identical questions about whether they believe congressional interns should be paid, but one version made reference to Ocasio-Cortez. Responses to the questions were very similar. While 49% said interns should be paid $15 an hour in response to the question that didn’t name Ocasio-Cortez, nearly 48% said the same in response to the question that indicated that the progressive lawmaker is pushing for higher pay.

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other new House progressives are tweeting their dissatisfaction with orientation at Harvard

Just 10% of House members and about half of senators pay their interns at least a stipend, according to Pay Our Interns, a group recently founded by two former unpaid congressional interns.

Ocasio-Cortez’s team has pledged to pay their interns $15 an hour, which is more than the stipend many currently receive. (Just three members of Congress — Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Doug Jones, and Rep. Adam Smith, all of whom are Democrats — pay their interns at least $15 an hour today.)

The House and Senate passed legislation last year that will allocate $20,000 per year to every House member and $50,000 to every senator for intern wages.

The 29-year-old Democratic Socialist, who took service industry jobs to support herself and her family in the years before she ran for office, tweeted last week that she met congressional staffers who are forced to wait tables to supplement their government wages.

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet came just a few hours after a reporter said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, another New York Democrat, is hiring an unpaid intern. And her message may have made an immediate impact, because later that day Schumer’s office announced the job posting had been made “in error” and his interns will be paid a stipend in the new congress.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,050 respondents, margin of error plus or minus 3.11 percentage points with 95% confidence level.

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