ATLANTA — Georgia Republicans are hostile to raising the minimum wage, but a majority of voters favor increasing it.
An exit poll conducted Tuesday by The Associated Press suggest a significant slice of the electorate takes a more moderate stance on labor issues than the Republicans who set economic policy in Georgia. Federal law requires most employers in the state pay at least $7.25 per hour. A smaller number of firms only have to pay Georgia’s minimum wage of $5.15.
On Election Day, 57 percent of voters said they would favor raising the minimum wage, while 40 percent opposed it. The lead is statistically significant since the poll of 790 people had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
“Georgians should be ashamed of themselves for paying such a low minimum wage,” said state Sen. Donzella James of Atlanta, a Democrat who failed in attempts to increase it. No Republicans have supported Democratic proposals last year for a wage hike.
“I don’t think that’s going to be something that is going to show up on our legislative agenda,” Republican Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Wednesday after beating Democrat Jason Carter.
Deal’s response makes political sense. The exit poll showed conservative voters who form the Republican Party’s base and dominate its primary elections oppose raising the minimum wage. Powerful business lobbying interests like the Georgia Chamber of Commerce also oppose it. However, the moderates that Republicans need to win general elections tend favor raising the wage, creating a long-run problem for GOP leaders.