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Control of US Senate Could Hinge on Candidates’ Positions on Minimum Wage

Voters in 7 states Overwhelmingly support raising minimum wage – and incumbents who oppose it pay a big penalty

Washington, DC – New polling shows voters in key swing states overwhelmingly support increasing the federal minimum wage and that candidates’ positions on raising pay could play a pivotal role in this year’s fight for control of the U.S. Senate. The results show incumbent Republican U.S. senators locked in close races could lose critical support – and even their seats – over opposition to raising wages for working people.

The polls were conducted August 25-29 by Public Policy Polling in seven states with competitive Senate races – Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  In each of the seven states, voters are less likely to support their incumbent Republican senators when informed of their votes against raising the federal minimum wage above $7.25 per hour.

In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, Democratic challengers strengthen their lead when voters were made aware of the Republican senator’s voting record on the minimum wage. And in Arizona, Missouri and North Carolina Democratic challengers actually pull ahead, flipping the contests on their heads.

“The findings of the polls are clear: swing state voters in this election are looking for candidates who will stand with them in supporting a strong minimum wage increase.  Elected officials who oppose raising the minimum wage do so at their political peril,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund.

In each state, at least 67% of voters support raising the federal minimum wage above its current level of $7.25 per hour, including 74% of voters in Pennsylvania and 72% of voters in North Carolina. At least 57% of voters back an increase to $15 per hour, including 63% in both Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

“Voters are fed up with lack of action in Washington on raising wages for working people, and what we’re seeing is that just letting voters know where the candidates stand on these issues can have a significant impact,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of Working Families.

During a recent WMUR question and answer session, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte simultaneously admitted that the minimum wage is not livable and doubled down on her opposition to raising it.

When asked by a participant whether she will “stand with New Hampshire workers to raise the minimum wage,” Ayotte responded “if we focus on the minimum wage, we’re, we’re losing sight of what we should be focusing on, which is better paying jobs because you can’t live on minimum wage.”

“My mom and I both work at Wendy’s, making $7.25 an hour and no matter how hard or long we work, we still don’t make enough to cover the basics like rent or a trip to the doctors,” said Manchester resident Kimberly Harrell. “But this election season, voters like me are changing that. We know that in our state every vote counts and we’re going to use our power to elect candidates who stand up for raising pay. Our message is simple: support a wage increase, and we’ll support you.”

The poll was commissioned by the NELP Action Fund, which that conducts research and advocates on issues that affect low-wage and unemployed workers. NELP Action, which is a project of The Advocacy Fund, is partnering with the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, Working Families and dozens of grassroots groups in the seven states on a campaign to mobilize voters around the minimum wage in the 2016 election. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the coalition plans to engage in canvassing, hold candidate forums, and wage debate protests, among other actions, to energize voters around candidates’ positions on the raising the minimum wage.

Over the past three and a half years, more than 50 states, cities and counties have passed minimum wage increases via legislation or ballot initiative. Nearly 20 million workers have seen wage increases, and 10 million of those workers are on the path to a $15 wage. But the federal minimum wage remains at just $7.25 due to gridlock and obstructionism in Washington. More than 10 million workers across the seven states polled are paid less than $15 per hour, including more than 7 million who are paid less than $12 per hour. Low wages force taxpayers in these states to pick up $25 billion per year in public assistance to working families, according to the UC Berkley Center for Labor Research and Education.

“Voters deserve elected leaders who share their values and will stand with them on bedrock issues like good jobs and fair wages,” said JoEllen Chernow, Director of Economic Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund. “Over the next two months we’ll be letting voters know where the candidates are on giving America the raise it needs.”

The PPP poll is the latest in a body of research that shows growing support for raising wages in America. In January 2015, Hart Research Associates found that 75% of Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage to $12.50, while 63% of Americans support raising the wage to $15. A poll of underpaid workers by Harris Interactive and Yougov last year showed among registered voters paid less than $15, 65% are more likely to vote in the upcoming election if a candidate supports $15 and a union for all workers.

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The New Hampshire Labor News is a group of NH Workers who believe that we need to protect ourselves against the attacks on workers. We are proud union members who are working to preserve the middle class. The NHLN talks mostly about news and politics from NH. We also talk about national issues that effect working men and women here in the Granite State.
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