South Dakotans have good policy reasons to support raising the minimum wage. But South Dakota Democrats and unions looking to place a minimum-wage increase on the 2014 ballot can't just look at what will happen if we raise the minimum wage; they need to give political consideration to what people think will happen.
Montana's Intelligent Discontent points to a poll from Democratic-leaning Hart Research that says voters must think a minimum-wage hike will do a lot of good. According to Hart's online interviews with 1,010 Americans this month, 80% of Americans would support a proposal to raise the minimum wage not just to the $8.50 the South Dakota initiative proposes, but to $10.10.
Hart doesn't break down the data by state (if their sample was truly representative, they'd have talked to 3 South Dakotans)
|% Approve||% Disapprove|
Extrapolate the most pessimistic data above to a South Dakota electorate—Republican, white, Midwest-Western—factor in the fact that the Hart poll asks about a 39% increase in the minimum wage, and you see a real possibility that South Dakotans could pass a 17% minimum-wage increase with a majority comparable to the 73% of Montanans who raised their minimum wage in 2006.
In a memo to Rick Weiland and whatever Democrats have the guts to join him on the 2014 ballot, supporting a minimum-wage increase also boosts your chances of winning a seat in Congress:
When asked whether they would be more or less likely to support a candidate for Congress who favored the proposal raising the minimum wage to $10.10, roughly half (51%) of registered voters said they would be more likely, compared with just 15% who said less likely—an impressive net gain of 36 percentage points. The net advantage among independent voters is 32 percentage points (46% more likely to support, 13% less likely), and among non-college whites the gain is 31 percentage points (44% more, 13% less). All demographic groups—including self-identified Republicans—have a higher percentage of respondents who say that position would increase the likelihood of their support rather than decrease it [Guy Molyneux, "Public Support for Raising the Minimum Wage," Hart Research Associates, 2013.07.23].
Conservatives looking for conspiracy can note that South Dakota labor and Dems are joining counterparts in Massachusetts, Alaska, and Idaho in petitioning for minimum-wage ballot measures. Conservatives may fret that the minimum-wage push is really about organizing and driving progressive voter turnout the way labor and Democrats did with a broad minimum-wage push in 2006, the year Democrats took back the House and Senate from Bush Republicans. The broad support for a higher minimum wage revealed in Hart's poll suggests such fretting is warranted.