Obama Visits Connecticut Pushing For Minimum Wage Increase

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Text by Christopher Keating and Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant; video by Angelica Spanos, FOX CT

As President Obama is scheduled to arrive Wednesday in New Britain to rally support for raising the minimum wage, a new poll shows the idea is highly popular in Connecticut.

By a margin of nearly 3 to 1, voters overwhelmingly back raising the wage, according to a poll of registered voters by Quinnipiac University.

The poll released Tuesday showed a sharp divide among various groups on the minimum wage, which Democrats have been pushing as a major issue in this fall’s elections. While 93 percent of Democrats polled in Connecticut support hiking the rate, with 6 percent opposed, a majority of Republicans — 53 percent — oppose an increase, with 41 percent in favor.

Women strongly favored the hike, 78 percent to 18 percent, and the highest support came from both men and women in the 18-to-29 age bracket.

On the day of his arrival here, Obama’s ratings are his lowest ever in Connecticut — dipping into negative territory in a traditionally blue state.

With the president more than a year into his second term, the poll found that 51 percent of voters in Connecticut disapprove of the way he is doing his job. That’s a new high for disapproval of Obama, whose all-time high approval rating in the state reached 71 percent favorability in April and May 2009.

There is a significant gender gap in Obama’s approval ratings as 57 percent of men disapprove of his performance. Women are more evenly divided, with 49 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving, according to the poll.

In an event that has received heavy advance publicity and two White House conference calls in the past three days, Obama will join with four New England governors — Connecticut’s Dannel P. Malloy, Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts — at Central Connecticut State University to promote raising the minimum wage. All four governors support a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, which translates into $21,008 per year for a full-time job.

Only about 5 percent of all workers nationally earn the minimum wage, but the White House says that raising the rate would have a spillover effect that would help those who earn slightly more than the minimum wage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report last month that said hiking the wage could cost as many as 500,000 jobs.

Among those who support the increase in Connecticut, 42 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac also support raising it to $10.10 an hour — the level sought by both Obama and Malloy. Twenty percent of those who support an increase told pollsters that the wage should be even higher than $10.10 per hour.

The poll found that 8 percent of respondents favored increasing the rate, but to a level lower than $10.10 an hour. About 25 percent of those polled said the state’s current $8.70-an-hour minimum wage should remain the same.

The poll of 1,878 registered voters, taken between Feb. 26 and March 2, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The calls covered voters who use both cellphones and landlines.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, said he supports raising the national minimum wage as a fairness issue.

“But Connecticut’s problem isn’t the minimum wage,” Foley said. “Connecticut’s problem is that far too many people, particularly young minorities in our cities, have no job at all. The job of a governor is to support policies and create an environment where high value-added jobs, not minimum wage jobs, are available for everyone who wants one.”

He added, “I want everyone in Connecticut to have a job that pays much more than the minimum wage so workers can comfortably support themselves and their family and move on to even greater opportunities.”

In a White House conference call with reporters Tuesday, Democratic U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven and Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire both said they are pushing for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to call for a vote on the wage, which has not yet been scheduled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

When asked why Obama was traveling to Connecticut to promote an issue that could have been pushed in other states, DeLauro responded: “Connecticut is leading the way. Connecticut moved. They acted. We did that with paid sick days and now minimum wage.”

DeLauro added: “If the bill were called up [in the U.S. House], it would pass. … If you build it, they will come.”

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