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Poll: Voters Want Higher Minimum Wage, But Say $15 Is Too Much

Voters in both Oregon and Washington say they support raising the minimum wage, but most oppose raising it as high as $15 an hour. They also say the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest in both states is too wide. Those are the findings of a recent poll commissioned by OPB News.

In Oregon, the poll found most voters — 57 percent — oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Some 39 percent support it.

“The government shouldn’t be determining what a fair wage is,” said Darrin Bobier, who participated in the poll. He lives in Beaverton and works for an auto company. “It should be determined by the employer and the employee.”

But Brendan Kaswell, who lives in Eugene, said he’s all for a higher minimum wage in Oregon.

“In a socioeconomic system that venerates greed, which is what capitalism does, you’re going to have losers. You have to have losers in order for there to be winners,” he said “That’s what we see more and more.”

DHM Research conducted the poll from April 13 to April 17. Pollsters spoke to 400 registered voters in Oregon and 400 registered voters in Washington. The poll results have a margin of error up to 4.9 percent.

“There’s strong evidence in the survey that suggests that Oregonians would support an increase to the minimum wage, however, not at the $15 level that’s often talked about,” said John Horvick, vice president and political director at DHM Research, who spoke on OPB’s Think Out Loud.

About half of registered voters in Oregon would set the minimum wage at $11 or $12 per hour, Horvick said.

Currently, Oregon state lawmakers are debating bills that would increase the minimum wage, something Gov. Kate Brown said she supports.

In Washington, the poll found, views on whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour are more evenly split. Forty-five percent of registered voters say they support the idea and 51 percent say they oppose it.

A bill that would have increased that state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour died in the Legislature earlier this year.

Kay Miller lives in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, where she owns a salon. Miller said she’s not in favor of a statewide higher minimum wage.

“I don’t support it, because I think if you want better in life, you do things to earn better in life,” she said. “I don’t think that increasing the minimum wage is going to make people do better for themselves.”

Still others in Washington said they’d like to see a higher minimum wage.

Duke Harner, who owns a custom sheet metal shop in Elma, Washington, said he’s fallen out of the middle class.

“I’m fine with raising it, as long as they do it, say, incrementally, and just not shoot for such a high number to give people immediately,” he said.

The poll also looked at the financial situation of families in Oregon and Washington.

Sixty percent of voters in Oregon said they’re worried about their family’s personal financial situation. In Washington, 55 percent of the poll respondents said they were worried.

The poll found the majority of respondents in both states think the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest is too large. But DHM’s Horvick said the majority of voters also said it’s not the responsibility of the government to close the gap.

“That’s something we see quite a bit where, people will talk about problems that they see in the world, but are concerned about institutions trying to fix them, particularly government institutions,” Horvick said.

That sentiment was voiced by Elaine Kincheloe, a substitute teacher who lives in Dallesport, Washington.

“I don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility. I think it’s the people who are the business owners and the people that live within a community,” she said.

And how do people feel about the economy? Voters in both states say it’s staying about the same or improving.

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