SACRAMENTO — A majority of Californians are unhappy with income distribution in the state but are divided over whether the government should do more to intervene or further raise the minimum wage, according to a Field Poll released Wednesday.
The survey found that 54 percent of California adults said they were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed, compared to 38 percent who said they were satisfied. The view is shared by similar numbers of Democrats and Republicans and across virtually all age, income and gender groups. Those who classified themselves as political independents were more comfortable than those who identified with either major party, with 48 percent dissatisfied and 44 percent satisfied.
Nearly six in 10 adults believe the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is growing.
The findings come amid a national debate about low-wage workers and the widening income gap. In San Francisco, some residents have staged protests over rising rents, driven partly by a surge of wealthy high-tech workers from Silicon Valley.
California’s first increase in the minimum wage in six years also started Tuesday, rising to $9 an hour. It will climb to $10 an hour in 2016.
Nearly half of those surveyed by Field said the minimum wage should be raised even further, while 37 percent said the increases already taking effect are adequate. About one in 10 believes the rate has already been raised too much.
The income gap also is expected to play a role in this year’s race for governor, in which Republican Neel Kashkari has sought to highlight California’s status as having the highest poverty rate in the nation as he challenges incumbent Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
To combat poverty, Kashkari proposes overhauling the state’s school system, expanding tax credits to promote job creation and passing policies “that support economic opportunity for all, not just the select few.”
Both gubernatorial candidates are wealthy.
Before the June primary, Kashkari pegged his net worth below $5 million. He has since given his campaign more than $2 million. Brown has reported investments valued anywhere from $430,000 to $4.3 million.
In the Field Poll, Californians were sharply divided along partisan lines over how much they believe government should do to try to reduce the wealth gap. About a third said a lot should be done, a third said some should be done and a quarter of respondents said government should not do much to intervene.
Californians who were born in another country, blacks and those with household incomes below $60,000 were among those most likely to believe the government should do more to tackle wealth inequality.
Immigrants reported being more satisfied with the way income is distributed in California than those who were born in the U.S., but 43 percent still said they believe the government should “do a lot” to reduce disparity.
Amid a national discussion about wage and income disparity, much of which has focused on workers in the fast-food sector, President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. After failing to gain traction in Congress, he is now pushing cities and states to raise wages on their own.
New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Oklahoma City are among those debating increases. The Seattle City Council voted this month to begin raising that city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour starting next year.
The Field Poll interviewed 1,020 adults from June 5-22. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.