New Poll Shows Political Benefits to Supporting a Federal Minimum Wage Increase in 2016 Election

By Oxfam

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In advance of Labor Day, Oxfam America and McLaughlin & Associates released today the results of a series of surveys in key 2016 presidential election states that show the political benefits for candidates that support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

The surveys, which included likely GOP caucus and primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and likely general election voters in seven swing states, show that presidential candidates who attack the federal minimum wage will not attract many additional supporters among voters in the Republican Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, as a majority support some kind of an increase in the federal minimum wage.  The surveys also show that a strong majority of likely general election voters in key swing states are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports an increase in the federal minimum wage.

“Being open to reasonable increases in the federal minimum wage can help 2016 candidates, Republicans as well as Democrats, appeal to voters," said pollster John McLaughlin. "By including a federal minimum wage increase as part of a larger economic vision, candidates keep their core supporters reach new audiences, while not alienating a significant number of swing state general election voters."

Key findings from the research include:

  • In early primaries and caucuses, there are few benefits to running against an increase in the federal minimum wage. Less than 13% of likely GOP early caucus or primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire oppose an increase in the federal minimum wage, and say they would not vote for a presidential candidate who supports an increase. In fact, a majority of New Hampshire GOP primary and Iowa GOP Caucus voters support at least one proposal (among $9, $10, $12 or $15) to increase the federal minimum wage (58% in Iowa and 59% in New Hampshire). 
     
  • In a general election, there are many benefits to supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage. By greater than a 3 to 1 ratio (64% to 18%), nearly two-thirds are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports increasing the minimum wage. A candidate will attract over 46% more voters than they will alienate. The net attraction score is strong among key voter segments: Independents (+45), women (+53), under 40 (+57), non-college educated men (+60) and non-college educated women (+56).
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage is clearly a winning issue in general election swing states. Eighty-seven percent of general election voters support at least one proposal for a federal minimum wage increase. The big majorities cut across party lines: Republicans (77%), Democratic (97%) and Independent (87%). Proposals for minimum wage increases to $9, $10, $12 and $15, all received support of 50% or higher among the voters in the swing states.
  • Large numbers of voters say that they or a family member would benefit from increasing the federal minimum wage to $12, and they strongly favor an increase. Roughly 41% of voters in swing states report that they or a family member’s personal financial situation would improve if the federal minimum wage were raised to $12. Candidates who support a wage increase net an enormous 78 points of support from these voters in a general election. Those affected almost universally support at least one proposal to increase the federal minimum wage (96%). Even in the GOP primary, voters reporting that they or a family member would benefit from an increase are much more likely to vote for a candidate supporting an increase than to oppose such a candidate (+38 points).
  • General election swing state voters prefer to help low-wage working families with policy solutions that raise wages, over solutions that provide tax refunds only. Three in five (63%) voters prefer an approach that would either raise the minimum wage alone or both raise the minimum wage and provide tax refunds. Only 17% favor a tax refund only proposal.
  • Support for a wage increase grows when the increase is attached to small business tax relief or if it reduces the need for government assistance. A majority of Republican caucus and primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are more likely to support a federal minimum wage increase if it reduces the number of people receiving assistance from the government (56% in Iowa & 57% in New Hampshire) or if small businesses would receive a tax reduction to help cover the costs of higher wages (57% in Iowa & 52% in New Hampshire). The numbers are big among general election voters in the swing states (82% and 78% respectively).

“Regardless of party, it’s clear that voters want to see candidates support reasonable increases in the federal minimum wage. Candidates who understand that this is in fact not a partisan issue stand to be rewarded generously by voters,” said Jeffrey Buchanan, senior domestic policy advisor at Oxfam America. “Six years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, American families are hurting.  With tens of millions voters feeling the impact of wage stagnation, it makes political, economic and moral sense for all 2016 candidates to support a reasonable increase in the minimum wage.”

“If Republicans want to broaden our coalition and attract more voters, we need to support policy that shows that we care about working class people,” said Henry Barbour, Mississippi’s elected member of the Republican National Committee and a leader in the national party. “GOP leaders should be open-minded about policy to help a working mom with two jobs and two kids get more than $7.25 per hour."

The Iowa and New Hampshire polls were conducted by McLaughlin & Associates August 13-16, 2015 and the surveyed sample sizes were 400 likely GOP caucus goers and GOP primary voters respectively in each state. The margins of error were +/- 4.9% in each state. The swing state polls (in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia) were conducted by McLaughlin & Associates August 13-18, 2015 and the surveyed sample size was 805. The margins of error were +/- 3.4%.

/ENDS

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