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Californians don't like wage gap, disagree on how to fix it: poll

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Most Californians say the wage gap has gotten worse in the most populous U.S. state, but divide along party lines on what to do about it, a new poll shows.

The San Francisco-based Field Research poll, released on Wednesday, shows that 54 percent of Californians are dissatisfied with the way wealth is distributed in the state. But, not surprisingly, the views of Democrats and Republicans differ greatly in the role the government should play in solving the problem.

"This is one of the major partisan divides - the role of government,” said Mark DiCamillo, who directs the Field Poll. “Conservatives, generally speaking, are more likely to favor a limited government...Even though they recognize there’s a gap.”

When asked about fixing the problem, 81 percent of Democrats said government should play a role, compared with 46 percent of Republicans. Asked whether government should do "a lot" to intervene, 42 percent of Democrats surveyed answered "Yes," compared with 20 percent of Republicans.

According to the poll, foreign-born Latino immigrants were the most likely to feel satisfied with the way wealth is distributed in the state. They were also less likely to think that wealth inequality was becoming more of an issue, with just 29 percent of Latinos born outside the U.S. saying the income gap had grown, compared with 62 percent of U.S.-born Latinos who said it had.

“It's the interesting aspect of the American melting pot at work,” DiCamillo said. “The foreign-born immigrants are basing their point of comparison on their home country.”

The poll also asked respondents whether they supported raising the state's minimum wage beyond its already scheduled increases.

These answers were also split along party lines, with 51 percent of Republicans saying the state’s planned increase to $10 per hour by 2016 is sufficient, while 57 percent of Democrats said the state should mandate even higher wages.

"Even when California gets to $10 an hour two years from now, it will still be a poverty wage," said state Senator Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who fought unsuccessfully to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017.

Democrats far outnumber Republicans in California, dominating all statewide elected offices and both houses of the legislature.

The Field Poll had a 3.2 percent margin of error and is based on a telephone survey of 1,020 adults conducted in June.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Gunna Dickson)

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