Q Poll: voters back minimum-wage increase

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage, a timely political boost to an issue that legislators and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy are reluctant to take up in the last two weeks of the legislative session.

The poll released Wednesday also found complex, generally negative views on the abolition of the death penalty for future crimes, a bill the governor is poised to sign into law this week after recent passage by the General Assembly.

Voters continue to express disapproval of the performance of Malloy and legislators, with 60 percent dissatisfied with the way things are going in Connecticut today and 79 percent calling the economy “not so good” (50 percent) or “poor” (18 percent).

The findings on the minimum wage are consistent with previous polls, but Donovan is certain to use them to reassure Democrats that raising the $8.25 minimum wage is good election-year politics.

The raise is supported 70 percent to 28 percent, with 88 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents in support. Republicans are divided.

“Every group, except Republicans, supports increasing Connecticut’s minimum wage.  Although all income groups support a higher minimum wage, support declines with income,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

Still, even 59 percent of voters with household incomes above $100,000 favor increasing the minimum. At 78 percent, support is highest from those with incomes of less than $50,000. Women (74 percent) are stronger in their support than men (65 percent).

By a narrow margin, 50 percent to 45 percent, voters say they believe that raising the wage will cause small businesses to reduce the number of people they hire. Sixty-three percent of GOP voters see reduced hiring as a consequence, compared to just 36 percent among Democrats.

Malloy and Democrats have expressed a reluctance to embrace an anti-business position in a weak economy, just a year after passage of the nation’s first state law mandating that some private employers offer paid sick days.

Donovan wants to raise the hourly minimum by 50 cents in each of the next two years. Thirty-four percent favor a $9.25 wage, 27 percent want it higher and 6 percent want a lesser boost.

Voters were not asked about a proposal to index the wage to the consumer price index.

The findings on the death penalty are consistent with past polls.

Asked a simple question – is abolition a good or bad idea – voters call it a bad idea by nearly a 2-1 margin.

But the electorate is evenly divided – 46 percent to 46 percent – when asked if punishment for murder should be death or life in prison without chance of parole. Twenty-five percent say it should be abolished for those already on death row and 21 percent say only for future crimes.

“The death penalty is a complex issue for voters, and for pollsters,” Schwartz said. “Connecticut voters want to keep the death penalty, perhaps as an option for the most heinous crimes, such as the Cheshire murders.”

Quinnipiac was criticized for only asking in its last poll if voters thought repeal was a good or bad idea. Opponents of repeal frequently cited the poll during the debate in the Senate and House.

“While they want to keep the death penalty on the books, voters are divided on whether they prefer to sentence convicted murderers to death or life without parole.  In fact, 74 percent say a life or death sentence depends on the circumstances of the case,” Schwartz said.

“A simple yes-no question on the death penalty suggests voters want it as an option.  Adding the life without parole option shows that voters are more lenient when it comes to administering punishment,” he said.

Thirty-seven percent of voters said the death penalty will be “extremely important” or “very important” to their votes next fall, with most saying a legislator’s for abolition was a negative.

Malloy’s approval rate dropped from last month’s poll: his approval/disapproval numbers this month are 37 percent/44 percent. Last month, they were 44 percent/45 percent.

“We have tried to be consistent in not saying much about polls because…what’s there to say?” Roy Occhiogross, the governor’s senior adviser, said in a statement. “Polls come and go, numbers go up and down. The governor always does what he thinks is best for the state and the right thing to do.”

The poll was based on a telephone survey of 1,745 voters from April 18 to 23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.