The latest in a recent barrage of Elway Polls (Inslee's approval laggingvoters confused about competing gun measures; and voter confidence up in Puget Sound/down in Easten Washington) shows that a majority 54 percent of statewide voters believe raising the minimum wage to $15 would “hurt the economy because employers would lay off workers," and that just 37 percent believed it would “help the economy by giving workers more money to spend.”

Both questions are somewhat problematic. 

In Seattle, a small plurality, 46 percent, agreed with the latter statement, while 40 percent agreed with the former; just 52 in Seattle percent said they believed cities should be able to set their own minimum wage.

Additionally, 49 percent of statewide voters said cities should not be allowed to set their own minimum wage, as Seattle has done (the city passed its phased-in $15 minimum back in May), while 43 percent said cities should have the right to set their own minimums. 

Both questions are somewhat problematic. The first sets up a choice—will a higher minimum wage cause layoffs or will it give workers more money to spend?—that isn't really binary. In polls taken before the city reached its $15 compromise, when it looked like a $15 measure could go to the ballot, many voters agreed with both ideas—that is, yes, a higher minimum wage might cause some businesses on the margins to suffer, but it would ultimately help workers and put more money in the economy. 

The second question is more complex than it appears; although it's not surprising that Seattle voters think Seattle should be allowed to set a higher minimum wage, voters in Eastern Washington were also inclined to support local control (by a margin of 47 to 40 percent), though probably for the opposite reason: They don't want Washington state coming in and forcing a higher minimum down their throats. 

Some context for Seattle (with its 52 percent support for local control and 46 percent plurality for the view that higher minimum wages help the economy): According to a February poll by EMC Research, which asked a straightforward yes-or-no question about the $15 Seattle-only minimum, Seattle voters supported the idea by a margin of 68 to 25 percent. That seems like a more trustworthy measure of how Seattle voters feel about the $15 minimum in general. 


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