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Minimum Wage Hike Very Popular with Voters

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
Overall 80 20
Democrats 92 8
Independents 80 20
Republicans 62 38
Northeast 86 14
South 81 19
Midwest 78 22
West 74 26
White 76 24
African Americans 93 7
Hispanic 83 17
Men 74 26
Women 85 15
<$40K 83 17
$40K-$75K 81 19
>$75K 78 22
Non-college Whites 80 20
College-Educated Whites 69 31

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.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.07.28

    When the people are for it, put it on the ballot. If the legislature deals with it the lobbyists will confuse them.

  2. Kathy Tyler 2013.07.28

    I love that comment! It made my day!

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