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November 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Do Seattle voters really care about a $15 minimum wage?

Mayor-Elect Ed Murray has promises to keep. This Seattle Times news story suggests the powerful Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 NW, which endorsed Murray over Mike McGinn, won’t let their man forget a SeaTac Prop 1-like citizen initiative could come to Seattle if leaders don’t take legislative action to increase the minimum wage to $15. The groundswell movement around socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant adds another voice to the debate over income inequality. (ICYMI: Read my colleague Bruce Ramsey’s column on the Sawant effect on Seattle liberal politics.)

But what about the rest of Seattle’s less-vocal voters? Between Oct. 14 and 16, consulting firm Strategies 360 released a survey based on 400 interviews among likely voters in Seattle.

The results indicate minimum wage as a standalone issue is not at the top of peoples’ agendas. Seattleites care more about the economy, jobs, education, public safety and road infrastructure. Here’s the chart:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.36.52 AM

Source: Strategies 360 Survey

View the complete survey on Strategies 360’s web site. With a 4.9 percent margin of error, the results also showed 48 percent of respondents think Seattle is heading in the right direction. Perceptions of the local economy are 73 percent positive — with 64 percent saying it’s in “good shape.”

Of course, none of those rosy numbers equaled votes for Mayor Mike McGinn. Voters found him to be a “more divisive figure” than Murray.

Here’s another telling visual:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.40.21 AM

Source: Strategies 360 Survey

Murray’s challenge is to maintain the city’s positive economic outlook while being cognizant of the root causes of income disparities. How we close that gap is a worthy discussion.

Do we automatically adjust hourly wages for some or all? And if so, what’s the consequence for businesses — especially newer ones — which cannot handle risk as well as, say, Dick’s Drive-In or Tom Douglas restaurants. (In September, I blogged about how Dick’s provides its fast-food workers with generous benefits; Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote about Douglas’ voluntary decision to increase his employees’ wages to $15 per hour). Or should we invest more resources in education and workforce training?

I see promise in Murray’s approach, which emphasizes an incremental path to $15 an hour that would consider input from all stakeholders.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before city leaders attempt to increase the minimum wage, they must also address the many other basic voter concerns that will determine whether businesses can prosper, residents feel safe and children are prepared to enter the workforce.


Comments | Topics: ed murray, elections, minimum wage


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