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Americans Say Pay Should Be Based on Performance Instead of Education, Seniority

Most American Adults think how much money an individual is paid should depend more on what they get done on the job rather than their educational background or how long they’ve worked for a company.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 68% believe the worker who gets more done at work should be paid more than the worker with more education. Just seven percent (7%) think the higher educated worker should be paid more, while 20% say the two should be paid about the same amount. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Fifty-two percent (52%) of adults think a worker who gets more done at work should be paid more than someone with more seniority. Twenty percent (20%) say the person with more seniority should get paid more, while 21% say the two should be paid about the same.

But when asked to choose between a worker with higher education and one with more seniority, 40% say the latter should be paid more. Only 11% choose the worker with more education. Thirty-five percent (35%) say the workers both should be compensated the same. Another 13% are not sure.

Most adults who are either in a labor union or have a union family member believe someone who produces more should be paid more than a worker with more education. But adults in unions or with union family ties from union member households are twice as likely as non-union adults to believe someone with more seniority should be paid more than someone who gets more done.

Though majorities of both government and private sector workers believe those who get more done should be paid more than those with more education, private sector workers believe it more strongly. But roughly the same number of government and private sector employees feel workers who get more done should be paid more than those with more seniority.

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The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on March 9-10, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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