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The $7.25 dividing line between majority of Americans, GOP

Should $7.25 per hour be enough for now?

GOP front-runner candidates are making what could be a tough sell for many Americans: Don't raise the minimum wage.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump listens as retired physician Ben Carson speaks during the debate in Milwaukee, Nov. 10, 2015.
Jim Young | Reuters
Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump listens as retired physician Ben Carson speaks during the debate in Milwaukee, Nov. 10, 2015.

During the latest presidential debate Tuesday, the race's top three Republican candidates all advocated keeping the minimum hourly rate where it is as a strategy to ultimately improve the economy and people's wages.

In several recent polls, though, Americans have called for the rate to increase — something that has not happened since 2009 when it rose to $7.25. Recent fast-food worker protests and New York's decision to hike wages for state workers have brought the issue back into the limelight.

Read More New York Gov.'s power play for a $15 minimum wage

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in May, 71 percent of respondents favored hiking the minimum wage to $10.10. These findings were similar to a Pew poll last January in which 73 percent of respondents wanted to raise it to $10.10. Among Republicans, the number shrank to 53 percent while 90 percent of Democrats favored a hike.

"I hate to say, it but we have to leave it the way it is," Donald Trump said during the debate. He cited the need for American employees to be competitive.

Republican front-runner Ben Carson echoed this.

"Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases. It's particularly a problem in the black community," he said.

Carson drove a more hardline approach to the topic than in the past. In a May interview with CNBC, he said the rate should "probably" be higher than it is now.

Read MoreWinners and losers from the fourth GOP debate

A 2014 report from the Congressional Budget Office backs up this job loss position. The organization looked at the effect of gradually boosting the minimum hourly level to $10.10. Once fully implemented, the change would lead to the loss of about 500,000 jobs, the office estimated.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio cautioned that raising the minimum level would accelerate job automation.

"If I thought raising that the minimum wage was the best way for people to increase their pay, I'd be all for it, but it isn't. In the 21st century, it's a disaster," he said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich strayed from the pack to talk about his own state's "moderate" increase in minimum wage.

"Economic theory is fine, but you know what, people need help," he said.

In a phone interview, Andy Puzder, the CEO of the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, said some minimum-wage increase would be OK but too much could be have unintended consequences.

Raising it too much would eliminate entry-level positions and lead to price increases for consumers, said Puzder in a phone interview.

"You can't get a second job if you don't get a first job," Puzder said.