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

Poll: Most in U.S. support higher minimum wage, unless it costs jobs
President Obama shops for clothing for his family alongside store employee Susan Panariello during a visit to a Gap clothing store in New York City to highlight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage. (Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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