LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Roughly two months before Kentuckians head to the polls to decide who will square off next fall in the governor’s race, a new Bluegrass Poll determined that increasing the minimum wage is the top issue on the minds of voters.
The poll — conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV — asked 2,200 adults about the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear and which issues will define the race.
Eighteen percent of those polled pointed to raising the minimum wage in Kentucky as their top concern. The state’s Democratic-controlled House passed a bill in February to gradually increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
The minimum wage in Kentucky hasn't been bumped up since 2009 when the federal government increased it to $7.25. A Bluegrass Poll in August found 55 percent in favor of raising the minimum hourly pay to $10.10.
A similar bill aimed at gradually raising the minimum wage cleared a Kentucky House of Representatives committee in 2014 but failed to win over the entire state legislature. The measure was a top priority of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who said the current minimum wage doesn't provide a living wage. The Prestonsburg Democrat says full-time employees working for the minimum wage make less than the average cost of a used car in the U.S.
“This issue set may change as the campaigns get ramped up and candidates more fully explain their priorities. But the poll gives us an idea of how Kentuckians rank the issues at this early point in the race,” WKYT political editor Bill Bryant said.
In addition to raising the minimum wage, doing away with kynect, Kentucky’s health exchange, was the second most important issue (13 percent) identified by the Bluegrass Poll. That finding comes even though Kentucky has been singled out as one of the most successful states in implementing the federally-mandated program.
With 12 percent of those polled deeming it most important, tax reform was the third most commonly named issue. Education and the teachers’ pension fund tied for the fourth most important issue with each garnering 10 percent.
While more Kentuckians told the Bluegrass Poll they want to do away with the state’s health exchange, nine percent of those polled said improving it is the most important issue in the 2015 governor’s race.
Rounding out the most important issues were right to work laws in Kentucky and dealing with the state’s battle with drug addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky ranks in the top three when it comes to states with the most fatal drug overdoses.
The remaining 11 percent of those polled mentioned other issues at topping their concerns going into the governor’s race.
For the Bluegrass Poll, SurveyUSA interviewed 2,200 state of Kentucky adults between March 3 and 8. Of the adults, 1,903 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 529 were determined by SurveyUSA to be Republican likely voters in the May 19 primary. Of the registered voters, 639 were determined to be Democrats likely to vote in the May 19 Democratic primary.
This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home telephone were interviewed on a home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.