Six out of 10 Mainers support a November ballot measure to raise the statewide minimum wage to $12 by 2020, according to a Portland Press Herald poll that also found a majority of respondents believe an increase would hurt small businesses.

The poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center asked more than 500 randomly selected likely voters in Maine about the minimum wage ballot question, known as Question 4.

Sixty percent of respondents said they would vote “yes” on Question 4, 28 percent said they would vote “no” and 12 percent said they were undecided. A large majority of Democrats (83 percent) and a majority of independents (57 percent) said they would vote for the measure, and half of Republicans (50 percent) said they would vote “no.”

Advocates for a higher minimum wage filed more than 76,400 petition signatures in January to place the measure on the November ballot. Backed by the Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine AFL-CIO and the Maine Small Business Coalition, it would raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour in 2017, followed by annual $1 increases until 2020. Subsequent increases would be indexed to inflation.

The measure also would gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped workers – now pegged at $3.75 an hour – until it reached the full minimum in 2024. The proposed increase for tipped workers differentiates the statewide measure from Portland’s recent citywide minimum wage increase to $10.68 by 2017, which does not apply to workers who rely on tips.

Supporters of Question 4 have argued that raising Maine’s minimum wage would enable more workers to meet their financial obligations without help from taxpayer-funded government programs. They also said it would boost consumer spending in the state and help grow the economy.


Opponents, including the Maine Heritage Policy Center and representatives of the state’s restaurant and hospitality industries, have said it would devastate many small businesses, particularly those in northern and rural Maine. They also said many entry-level jobs would be cut as a result of the higher minimum wage, and prices on consumer goods would increase.

Survey respondent Tom McClain, a Democrat from Kennebunkport, said a higher minimum wage would be a recognition of the value of all workers and would stimulate the state’s economy. He plans to vote “yes” on Question 4.

“By raising people up, it provides more dignity to workers, makes people able to be more self-sufficient and puts more money in circulation for the economy,” McClain said.

Richard Dailey, a Republican from Skowhegan, said the increase would hurt already-struggling small businesses in Maine and push larger companies to accelerate their efforts to replace entry-level workers with automation. He plans to vote “no.”

“It’s not going to help the ones it’s trying to help,” Dailey said. “It’s not that I don’t want people to get a better-paying job; it’s that they need to gain the skills to get a better-paying job.”

A majority of those responding to the poll (53 percent) agreed that raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses. Twenty percent said it would help small businesses, and 21 percent said it would neither hurt nor help small businesses.


Still, nearly three out of four respondents (74 percent) said Maine’s minimum wage is too low and should be increased, while 21 percent said it should not be increased at all, and 5 percent said they were unsure. Of those who favored an increase, 34 percent said it should be raised to an amount between $10 and $11, 30 percent said it should be raised to an amount between $8 and $10, and 25 percent said it should be raised to $11 or more.

Janice Coleman, a Democrat from Bangor, said she plans to vote “yes” on Question 4, in part because of the measure’s gradual approach to raising the minimum wage. An immediate increase to $12 would be too hard on small businesses, said Coleman, a former restaurant owner.

“I don’t think it can go to $12 right away,” she said. “I think it’s too big an adjustment.”

Steve Sweeney, an independent from Sanford, said he could get behind a $10 minimum wage, but that he thinks upping it to $12 is going too far. He is concerned that the proposed increase would make everything more expensive.

“I think we should look at the bigger problem of why people are struggling,” Sweeney said, adding that the cost of living should be included in the discussion. “We need to do an economic analysis of what’s going on.”


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