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Voters 'do not accept' business case against minimum wage hike, poll finds

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A new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll released this morning shows 65 percent of registered New Jersey voters support a constitutional amendment to raise the state's minimum wage by $1, to $8.25.

The numbers provide a glimpse of November, when voters will tackle the question through a ballot measure. Poll numbers also show that while 22 percent of voters remain undecided on the issue, just 12 percent claim they would vote against it.

Poll data also show a disconnect between business groups — which are fighting the measure — and voters. While business groups argue a wage hike would create jobs losses, two-thirds of voters don't buy that argument.

"The minimum wage amendment is set to pass by a substantial margin," Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said in the report. "New Jersey voters simply do not accept the business community's prediction of dire consequences."

Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the numbers illustrate to her that voters don't fully recognize the ramifications of such a proposal. As a member of the coalition seeking to defeat the amendment, NFIB will amp up its message come October, she said.

"That just shows me we need to be a little more aggressive with our educational campaign," Ehlbeck said.

Of particular concern to the business community is language calling for future hikes to the wage tied to the consumer price index. Gov. Chris Christie had sought to decouple the CPI and the wage in a conditional veto in January.

While Ehlbeck said she's "a little disappointed" with the poll numbers, she thinks there's still time to make up the ground and noted that in the end, all that matters is the outcome on Election Day.

"Ultimately, it comes down to what people think when they walk in the door," Ehlbeck said.

One area of the poll's results that's not as clear-cut is the potential effect a minimum wage increase might have on small businesses. Only 26 percent of voters think raising the minimum wage will help small businesses, while 33 percent think it will hurt them. An additional 33 percent of polled voters said it will have no impact.

According to the report, poll data was collected over the telephone from a sample of 674 registered voters in New Jersey from Sept. 6 to Sept. 10.

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