Maryland Polling Memo

MEMORANDUM

To: NELP

From: Matthew Shelter , Kiley & Company

Date: December 9, 2010

RE: Key Findings from Maryland Statewide Survey

Introduction

This memo summarizes the key findings from our recently completed survey of 600 registered voters in the state of Maryland. The survey was conducted by telephone between Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2010. The average interview required 13 minutes to complete. The margin of error for the survey is +/-4%.

1. Most Maryland voters believe the state’s economy is in tough shape, but there is some hope for improvement in the coming year. More than half of all voters believe that the cost of living in the state has been rising faster than wages.

  • More than three-in-five Maryland voters (62%) describe the state’s economy in negative terms, with 38% saying it is in “not so good shape” and 24% saying “poor shape.” Fewer than two-in-five (38%) believe the economy is in “excellent” or “good” shape.
  • While the single biggest bloc of voters (41%) foresees little change in the coming year, to the extent voters do see the economy moving one way or the other, it is in a positive direction: 37% of voters think the state’s economy will improve in the coming 12 months, compared to 20% who believe it will get worse.
  • Voters clearly perceive the increase in the cost of living in the state to be outpacing wages. More than half (55%) say that the cost of living in Maryland has risen faster than wages have risen over the last year or so, compared to just 11% who believe the rise in wages has outpaced inflation (31% say the changes in both have been “about the same”).
  • When asked to volunteer their idea of “the minimum level of income that a family of four in Maryland needs to earn in a year in order to make ends meet,” voter estimates are far above the $15,000 figure that is the current annual salary of a minimum wage worker employed full-time. Almost no voters (fewer than 1%) cite a figure of $15,000 or less, and only 7% volunteer a figure in the $16,000-$30,000 range. Voters are much more inclined to cite figures in the $31,000-$40,000 range (14%); the $41,000-$60,000 range (31%); or in excess of $60,000 a year (35%) as the minimum necessary for a working family in Maryland to get by. 

2. There is very strong voter support for raising the minimum wage in Maryland to $8.25 immediately and to $10.00 by the year 2013. Voters are far more apt to see an increase in the minimum wage as helping the statewide economy than hurting it.

  • By the lopsided margin of 79% to 20%, Maryland voters favor a proposal “to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 this year, and then increase it to $10.00 by the year 2013.” Indeed, more than half of all voters (57%) say they “strongly favor” this proposal, compared to just 11% who “strongly oppose” it.
  • Support for raising the minimum wages is high across the board among key demographic groups within the Maryland electorate. Support is highest in the city of Baltimore (85%), but tops the 70% mark in all other regions of the state: Eastern Shore (72%); Baltimore Suburbs (78%); Washington DC Suburbs (81%); and Western Maryland (79%).
  • 89% of Democrats, 75% of Independents and 60% of Republicans support an increase in the minimum wage.
    • Even among self-identified Tea Party supporters, there is majority support (62%) for an increase.
  • More than 75% of voters at every income level support an increase.
  • Part of what is driving this high level of support is voters’ belief that raising the minimum wage will help the statewide economy. By a margin of 56% to 18%, Maryland voters think that increasing the minimum wage will help rather than hurt the state’s economy.
  • Support for raising the minimum wage is sustained even after voters hear the arguments advanced by opponents of such a move. When voters are presented with a balanced set of arguments for and against a minimum wage increase, they continue to favor the proposal by a three-to-one margin (74% to 25%). 

3. There is widespread voter support for making annual adjustments to the minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living, and for boosting the minimum wage for tipped workers.

  • The vast majority of Maryland voters support a key element of the proposed increase in the minimum wage: indexing future increases to the rate of inflation. By a margin of 80% to 19%, voters favor “adjusting the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the cost of living.”
  • Close to three-in-four voters (72%) also favor a proposal to increase the minimum wage for workers who receive tips (e.g., waiters, waitresses, and others) from the current level of 50% of the standard minimum wage to 70%. 

4. Roughly 40% of Maryland voters say they would be more inclined to support a state legislator who voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage, or less inclined to support one who voted against an increase.

  • We asked voters a pair of questions measuring the relative importance of the minimum wage as a voting issue.
  • Close to two-in-five voters (38%) say they would be more inclined to support their own state legislator for reelection if that person voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage, while 16% say they would be less inclined to support a legislator who cast a pro-minimum wage vote.
  • Alternately, 42% of voters say they would be less inclined to reelect their own legislator if he or she cast a vote against increasing the minimum wage, while 13% say such a vote would make them more inclined to support their legislator. 

5. The strongest messages in support of raising the minimum wage are that it is just too low for this day and age; that working families dependent on a single income need help; and that an increase in the minimum wage would be one of the most effective ways to get the state’s economy moving again.

  • We tested a total of 10 arguments in support of raising the minimum wage, splitting our sample so half the respondents heard one set of five messages, and the other half heard a different set of five messages.
  • The most persuasive arguments are grouped around three basic themes:
    • That at its current level of $7.25, the minimum wage is badly outdated and too low for the current cost of living.
    • That for displaced workers who have been forced to take low-wage jobs or rely on one income to get by, raising the minimum wage would provide a major boost.
    • That an increase in the minimum wage would be one of the most effective ways to get the Maryland economy moving.
  • More than seven-in-ten voters (71%) say they would be more inclined to support the proposed increase after hearing a statement noting that “the current minimum wage of $7.25 is just too low for this day and age.” A closely related idea – that the current minimum wage “is badly outdated [and] would be more than $10 an hour today if it had kept up with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years” – elicits a positive response from 69% of all voters.
  • 69% of voters say they would be more inclined to support an increase after hearing that “some of the only jobs available for many people in the current economy are low-wage jobs [and] it’s important to make sure these jobs pay at least the bare minimum needed for someone to get by and pay their day-to-day bills,” and 68% say are more inclined after hearing that “more families are having to make do with just one income [and] raising the minimum wage would provide a big boost to working families that are in this situation and struggling to make ends meet.”
  • More than two-thirds of all voters (68%) are more supportive of an increase after hearing that “raising the minimum wage is one of the most effective steps we can take to get our economy moving again [by putting] more money in the hands of workers at the lowest end of the wage scale, who are the most apt to put it right back into the economy.”