Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
About 70 percent of registered New Mexico voters support boosting the state’s minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, according to a new Journal Poll conducted last week.
The biggest segment of those surveyed said the new minimum should be set at either $9 – 28 percent – or $10 an hour – 22 percent. They were bracketed by respondents who said it should be $8 an hour – 13 percent – or more than $10, which had the support of 12 percent.
Twenty percent were opposed to any increase.
“The vast majority of registered voters support a minimum wage increase,” said Research & Polling President Brian Sanderoff. “Voters would be a little ahead of legislators when it comes to the amount of money that they are willing to set the minimum wage at.”
The poll showed distinct differences along party and geographic lines, with Democrats and voters in north-central New Mexico more supportive of raising the minimum wage.
Among Democrats, 81 percent were in favor, compared with 50 percent of Republicans.
Female and Hispanic voters were also more supportive than male and Anglo voters, according to the poll.
Proponents of increasing the minimum wage say it would help cash-strapped workers and their families make ends meet. Critics contend it would hurt businesses, result in the reduction of jobs and hours, and increase costs for consumers.
Democratic-backed bills to raise the minimum wage have been voted down in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee. One of the bills, HB 20, sought to raise the state minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $10.10 per hour, starting in July. The other proposal, HB 138, would have adopted increases in increments over three years, with $10.10 effective in 2018.
Several Senate bills are still pending, with proposed minimum wage levels varying from $8.30 to $10.10 per hour.
House Republican floor leader Nate Gentry of Albuquerque proposed attaching a minimum wage hike to a separate right-to-work bill, but action was delayed as some GOP lawmakers objected to tying the two issues together. Gentry’s proposal would raise the minimum wage to $8 per hour, with a six-month training period during which employers could still pay their workers the $7.50-per-hour rate.
Some New Mexico cities already have minimum wages that are higher than the state’s. Albuquerque’s minimum wage is $8.60 with no health benefits and $7.60 with such benefits, while Santa Fe’s so-called living wage – one of the highest in the country – is set at $10.66 an hour regardless of whether benefits are offered.
The Journal Poll found support was strongest in north-central New Mexico, at 83 percent. Support was lowest in northwestern New Mexico, at 62 percent.
The level of support in the poll, conducted Feb. 17-19, was slightly higher than in a poll of likely voters conducted last fall before the election, which found that 68 percent supported an increase.
“The distribution of the sample becomes a little younger and a little more registered independent than what you might see in a likely voter poll,” Sanderoff said.
The poll asked: “Do you support or oppose raising the state minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.50 per hour.” It also asked voters whether they would support an increase to $8, $9, $10 or more than $10.
It was based on a scientific, statewide sample of 402 registered voters, with 52 percent of the calls made to cellphone numbers. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.