A new survey found bipartisan support among North Carolinians for raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.

The two policies have long been popular among progressives, but the poll released this week by Meredith College found favor even among Republican voters.    

Nearly eight out of 10 voters agreed that state lawmakers should increase the minimum wage of $7.25, which is also the federal minimum wage and the rate in 18 other states. 

North Carolinians, however, were split on how much the wage should go up, with one-third of those surveyed supporting a $10 minimum wage. About one-quarter of voters favored $12 an hour, and another 25 percent preferred $15 an hour.

Only 18 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed any increase to the state minimum wage, speaking to its bipartisan support.

A $15 minimum wage was originally included but later stripped from the federal American Rescue Plan signed into law earlier this month.   

While raising the minimum wage from $7.25 is widely viewed as a progressive goal, a majority of Republican voters (65 percent) agreed the state minimum wage should go up, with a plurality (43 percent) supporting $10 per hour. Democrats (72 percent) preferred an hourly wage of either $12 or $15.

In general, young voters and those from urban counties joined Democrats in favoring a higher minimum wage while Republicans, older voters, and those from suburban and rural counties preferred the lower wage increase. 

Another issue that garnered bipartisan support was an expansion of Medicaid to provide health coverage to more low-income residents. North Carolina is one of only 12 states that has so far refused federal assistance to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  

Two-thirds of North Carolinians said state lawmakers should adopt Medicaid expansion while only 19 percent opposed the idea. 

Unsurprisingly, 89 percent of Democrats supported an expansion, but a plurality of Republicans (46 percent) also believed lawmakers should expand coverage compared to 34 percent who opposed it.

“Since its passage over a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act has been a wedge issue for the two major parties,” survey director David McLennan said in the report. “Medicaid expansion, even though Republican leadership in the General Assembly has been steadfastly opposed to this provision, remains very popular, even among Republicans in the state.”

Other policy issues that received widespread support in the survey included a hands-free law, which would make holding a mobile device while driving illegal. More than 80 percent of North Carolinians supported the proposal, which about half of U.S. states have adopted. Two-thirds of voters also supported a statewide mask mandate in response to the ongoing COVID pandemic, but the support was largely partisan, with more than 80 percent of Democrats favoring the mandate and 53 percent of Republicans opposing it.

Follow Managing Editor Geoff West on Twitter or send an email to gwest@indyweek.com

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