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Poll: Majority of Mainers Support Minimum Wage Hike

PORTLAND, Maine — Twice a year the Portland-based polling firm Critical Insights surveys 600 registered Maine voters on a number of issues facing Mainers.

Voters are screened through landlines, cellphones and online questioning to determine whether they're likely to vote.

Some questions track issues over time and some are new to the survey. The latest survey includes a question that could reach the ballot box next year: raising the minimum wage.

The question is simple: "Do you support or oppose an increase in the minimum wage in the State of Maine?" Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed say they support an increase. Twenty-two percent are opposed, with ten percent not expressing an opinion.

The results are not surprising to Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. The group is backing a petition drive that would force a vote next year to raise the current minimum from $7.50 per hour to $9 an hour in 2017, and then by an additional dollar a year until it reaches $12 an hour.

"We are very pleased and this matched what we have seen in all of the polling and more importantly in thousands of conversations with Mainers across the state," he says. "People are hungry for an increase in wages."

But the polling question was not specific about any particular proposal to increase the minimum wage.

Maine Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors says the business community recognizes the need for an increase, but says the AFL-CIO proposal goes too far with its automatic increase. Instead, he says the Legislature should adjust the wage based on economic conditions.

"How far can our economy afford to go to recognize the need to increase but also to have a viable business climate?" he says. "And I think that is more the question."

Other findings also stood out in the survey.

A solid six out of every ten Mainers surveyed support the establishment of a new national park in northern Maine. The only area that did not get at least 50 percent support was the Down East-coastal area, where 43 percent support the park, 31 percent oppose.

As for voters' feelings about the state's top political leaders, the survey shows a significant drop for a couple of them.

Gov. Paul LePage had a 47 percent approval rating in the fall of 2011, his first year in office. This fall it has dropped to 32 percent. And the governor is not alone.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King had an approval rating of 63 percent in the fall of 2013. This fall that has dropped to 49 percent.

Even Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who has long enjoyed high approval ratings, saw a decline. In the fall of 2013 she had a 69 percent approval rating — this fall that has dropped to a 61 percent approval rating.

To see the Critical Insights poll, click here.