More than half (58%) of respondents think employers should be encouraged, but not forced, to pay a living wage, according to research by consultancy KPMG.
Its research, which surveyed more than 1,000 individuals across the UK, found that 21% strongly agree that the government should set pay levels.
The living wage is currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 for the rest of the UK.
Almost two-thirds (61%) of respondents said that if staff in a pub, restaurant or hotel were paid a living, rather than minimum, wage, there would be a visible improvement in customer care.
More than half (52%) would pay higher prices if they knew the money was going directly into employees’ pockets.
Four in ten respondents would not hesitate to shop elsewhere if their preferred store or supplier did not pay the living wage, but only 13% would not alter shopping habits, arguing that employers can pay what they want.
Two-thirds (66%) of respondents believed the UK’s economy has recovered sufficiently to justify wage increases for the lowest paid, while 70% want them to be the first to receive pay rises.
More than half (56%) would accept a new role with an organisation not yet paying the living wage, while 8% claimed they do not care what other people earn.
Mike Kelly, a director at KPMG, said: “For the past six years, employers have been able to hide behind the notion that a downtrodden economy has enforced a freeze on wages.
“However, with the [International Monetary Fund] revising its forecasts upwards, there can be no more excuses to ignore the principal of fair pay.
“A year ago there were just more than 200 accredited living wage [employers] and, with that number now rising to more than 700, it is clear many organisations realise the benefits of offering a salary on which direct, or third-party, employees can live.”
“There is still a long way to go, and it may not be possible or practical for everyone, but organisations need to do what they can to address the problem of low pay.
“Failure to act may prove more costly than adding higher wages to the balance sheet, as shoppers stay away and talented staff move to more socially-conscious employers.
“The decision to pay a living wage should be voluntary, but the case in favour is very compelling.
“It makes good business sense to listen to the views of clients, customers and colleagues, and the message is clear: a living wage is not just regarded as fair pay; it is also seen as fair play.”