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Poll: Most in U.S. support higher minimum wage, unless it costs jobs

WASHINGTON — Most Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage, a top priority of President Obama, but not if it would cost the economy jobs, according to a new national poll.

About 69% of respondents in the Bloomberg National Poll said they favored hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years from $7.25, with 28% opposing it.

But their views changed when told of a recent government estimate of the effects of such an increase on poverty and employment, according to findings from the poll released Tuesday.

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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported last month that moving to a $10.10 minimum wage would increase the earnings of about 16.5-million low-wage workers, but also cause the loss of about 500,000 jobs.

Presented with that information, 57% of the 1,001 respondents said the trade-off was unacceptable. About a third — 34% — said it was acceptable.

Obama and congressional Democrats have pushed for a higher minimum wage to help reduce income inequality. But most Republicans, backed by key business groups, have argued an increase would lead companies to cut back on low-wage positions.

Despite the attention in Washington, only 49% of poll respondents said the issue would be a factor in which congressional candidates they vote for in November.

Americans also were split on how to address the growing gap between the rich and poor. About 45% said the government should implement policies to shrink the disparity, while 43% said officials should let the market operate freely even if the gap widens.

The poll also showed support for extending long-term unemployment benefits, which expired late last year. About 52% favored providing benefits beyond the current 26 weeks, while 45% opposed it.

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