It has been debated the last few years by Democrats in the State Legislature. They were able to get a bill to Governor Chris Christie's desk but it was quickly vetoed. When voters head to the ballot box next month, they will be asked whether they favor raising the minimum wage. Based on a couple recent polls, supporters of raising the state's minimum wage should be optimistic.
One poll, a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll. showed that 66% of nearly 700 respondents said they would support a constitutional amendment on the ballot next month that would raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 and have a clause that yearly based on the Consumer Price Index it would be risen. Only 12% oppose such a measure and 22% are undecided on the matter.
Another poll, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll, would show even more support as 76% of close to 600 respondents would favor increasing the state's minimum wage while only 22% oppose an increase.
Taking the question and issue another step, respondents were asked if they favored an increase as large as $10.50. While there was not as much wide support, a plurality still favored that type of increase as 41% would support such an increase while 31% oppose that large of an increase. 28% had no opinion. If one were to base the minimum wage on inflation and the cost of living along with buying power, a $10.50 minimum wage rate would be equivalent to what the the minimum wage rate was like 40 to 50 years ago when thinking about those aspects.
If you take a minimum wage increase up to $15/hour as some fast food workers were demanding earlier this year, only 16% of New Jersey voters would support a minimum wage like that.
Breaking down the responses by party; 74% of Democrats support an increase to $8.25 while 63% of Independents and 54% of Republicans feel the same way. Thus, this matter crosses party lines in terms of its support.
Additionally, 67% of respondents said that they disagreed with business groups' contention over the summer that the minimum wage increase would cost thousand of jobs.
As Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, would state;
The minimum wage amendment is set to pass by a substantial margin. New Jersey voters simply do not accept the business community’s prediction of dire consequences.
While 33% did say that the increase of the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, 26% said that it would help them. 33% feel that increasing the state's minimum wage will have no impact. An interesting piece of the poll showed that 52% of Republican respondents feel the increase will hurt small businesses yet 54% support the increase. 34% of Independents and 22% of Democrats feel that small businesses will be negatively impacted by an increase.
With the Rutgers-Eagleton poll, support for an increase decreased as one looks at the income level of the respondents. However, even for those making at least $100,000; there is still high support with 68% in favor of the increase to $8.25.
The ballot question was decided upon after Christie's veto as a way to let voters decide on the matter. If the votes end up like the way polls show they will, there will be nothing Christie can do to override the constitutional-binding decision by voters to have the state's minimum wage increase by $1 and also link inflation and the cost of living to future increases. After a few years of trying to get an increase passed, Democrats might finally have their victory for working class New Jerseyans.