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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg March 16, 2014

Do most Americans favor hike in minimum wage?

Call it the Democrats’ midterm disease. The voters who come out in presidential elections and help them win the White House tend to stay home in the off-years. Last week’s loss in Florida showed clear symptoms of the party’s affliction and whether Democrats can do much about it was batted about by the pundits on the Sunday talk shows.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the liberal magazine The Nation, argued that Democrats should take advantage of what she called a populist moment.

"The majority support (raising) the minimum wage," vanden Heuvel said on ABC’s This Week. "More fairness, taking on a rigged system that's working against working people."

We wanted to review the polls to see where the electorate stands.

As a matter of simple support, plenty of opinion surveys back up vanden Heuvel’s claim. The latest results from a Bloomberg poll show 69 percent of the public supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next three years.

ABC News and the Washington Post asked if a candidate’s support for raising the minimum wage would make you more likely to vote for him or her. Half of all voters said they would be more likely to vote for that candidate. Only about a fifth said they would be less likely; most of the remainder said it would make no difference in their decision.

A CBS/New York Times poll in February found 65 percent of the public favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

So people largely support increasing the minimum wage, polls show. But polls also suggest that it’s not necessarily a high priority.

A February Gallup poll found just 2 percent of respondents said wages were the most important issue facing the country. The gap between rich and poor, another Democratic theme, also came in at 2 percent. What voters cared most about in that survey, 23 percent of them, were jobs and cutting unemployment. That’s obviously connected to whether Americans have enough money to get by, but it isn’t the same as supporting a raise in the minimum wage.

A Quinnipiac University poll in January had very similar results. In an open-ended question about the nation’s top priority for 2014, 1 percent of respondents mentioned the minimum wage, while 16 percent said jobs and unemployment, 15 percent said the economy in general, and 18 percent said health care.

With jobs and the economy ranked so high, the latest findings from ABC News/Washington Post polling show the public equally divided on which party they trust to handle the economy. About 40 percent give the nod to the Democrats and 40 percent to the Republicans.

Our ruling

Vanden Heuvel said most Americans support raising the minimum wage. The polls confirm it. About two-thirds of the public consistently say boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 is a good idea and as many as a half of all voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who backs that increase.

But how much a candidate’s position on the minimum wage matters in the polling booth is much less clear. The minimum wage is not top of mind except for a small fraction of voters.

Still, vanden Heuvel's specific claim is accurate. We rate the statement True.

Our Sources

ABC, This Week, March 16, 2014

Pollingreport.com, Minimum wage

Quinnipiac University, National poll: voter priorities, Jan. 24, 2014

Gallup, Unemployment rises to top problem for U.S., Feb. 17, 2014

Gallup, Most important problem, Feb. 17, 2014

PolitiFact, Barack Obama says half of Republicans agree with his proposed minimum wage hike, March 7, 2014

Pew Research Center, Deficit reduction declines as policy priority, Jan. 27, 2014

University of Virginia Center for Politics, Democrats dread 2014 drop off, Jan. 10, 2013

Pollingreport.com, Democrats v. Republicans

Gallup Poll, Most American for raising the minimum wage, Nov. 11, 2013

PunditFact, "Sharpton: The people's priorities are a minimum wage hike, a path to citizenship, and gun background checks," Dec. 6, 2013

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