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Democrats Believe Minimum Wage Will Be a Winning Issue in 2014. Are They Right?

As Democratic and Republican congressional candidates prepare for the 2014 local and national elections, each party is seeking to find an issue that will rally support among voters; according to Jonathan Martin and

Minimum Wage

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Michael D. Shear’s latest for The New York Times, Democratic Party leaders may have found it in their efforts to increase the minimum wage.

A review of public opinion on the minimum wage reveals why Democrats think they’ve uncovered a winning issue heading into the election. Increasing the minimum wage is incredibly popular with the public, with more than 7-in-10 (71 percent) Americans in favor of increasing the rate from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour, compared to just 24 percent who oppose. As PRRI’s recent Graphic of the Week shows, this support crosses party lines. Nearly 9-in-10 (89 percent) Democrats, 7-in-10 (68 percent) independents, and a majority of Republicans (57 percent) favor a hike in the minimum wage. Members of the Tea Party stand out for their opposition to raising the minimum wage, with just 42 percent in favor of increasing the rate and 57 percent opposed.

Efforts to increase the minimum wage also find strong support among America’s religious communities. Majorities of black Protestants (89 percent), Catholics (78 percent), religiously unaffiliated Americans (77 percent), white mainline Protestants (69 percent), and white evangelical Protestants (61 percent) all favor increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

However, it remains to be seen whether this issue will gain traction with voters amid other pressing concerns, such as health care affordability and the availability of jobs. In late 2011, only 34 percent of voters reported that raising the minimum wage was a critical issue, while 31 percent said it was one among many important issues and a similar number said it was not that important an issue. Although raising the minimum wage does receive majority bipartisan and cross-religious support, it remains to be seen how effective the issue will be at galvanizing voters at the polls.