Poll finds Californians are strongly in favor of state's minimum wage increase

Californians strongly back the state’s minimum wage increase to $15 — the highest in the country — even though they believe the wage hike will hurt their pocketbooks and the state’s economy, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Almost two-thirds of the state’s registered voters surveyed in the poll agreed with the phased-in wage increase, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in April. Starting next year, the state will begin gradually boosting the minimum wage from $10, eventually reaching $15 an hour by 2022 with increases after that tied to inflation.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll »

Support for the decision was broad across all demographics, with especially strong backing from black voters as well as the state’s poorest and youngest adults.

Large majorities believe that the wage increase will give lower-income workers more money to spend and that businesses will benefit from lower employee turnover, increased productivity and customer satisfaction.

At the same time, though, similarly high percentages of those surveyed expected negative consequences, including layoffs and business relocations to states with lower minimum wages. Almost 90% of respondents believed that prices for consumers would rise because of the wage hike.

“Voters really recognize and identify the drawbacks of the minimum wage,” said Ben Winston of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the Democratic half of the team of polling firms that conducted the USC/L.A. Times poll. “But they believe the benefits outweigh those costs.”

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, had a slightly different take on the results, saying it’s unclear whether respondents had decided that benefits to the wage increase were more significant or simply hadn’t thought through the negative impacts before the survey.

Schnur compared the situation to public attitudes on term limits. Voters generally believe term limits erode expertise in the Legislature and increase the power of lobbyists, but they still like the idea.

“They agree with every single argument against them but still support them,” Schnur said.

The poll also found support among Californians for raising the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 an hour, with 59% in favor. 

Brown’s approval rating is down 6 percentage points from a similar survey in March but remains high, with 54% of those surveyed approving of his work. Schnur said a strong economy and the fact that the 2016 campaign has put a harsh spotlight on other politicians likely contributes to Brown’s support. Nearly a third of Republicans rated Brown favorably, roughly the same margin that backed the state minimum wage increase.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll surveyed 1,500 registered state voters by telephone from May 19 to 31. The poll’s overall margin of sampling error is 2.9 percentage points.

liam.dillon@latimes.com

Follow me at @dillonliam on Twitter

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