The First Five Years Fund’s 2017 national poll found support on the left and right from American voters for making quality early-childhood education more affordable, with 97 percent of Democrats in favor compared to 85 percent of independents and 82 percent of Republicans.
Improving the quality of public education overall and making sure that children have access to quality early-childhood education topped a list of government priorities for the voters surveyed. This year, 43 percent of voters listed quality ECE as extremely important.
The poll also found that the majority of voters (85 percent) support increased funding for child care that provides more access to quality programs for low- and middle-income families. That support also cut across partisan lines, with 97 percent of Democrats in support, along with 79 percent of independents and 74 percent of Republicans.
The poll was commissioned by the First Five Years Fund and conducted by a bipartisan team of researchers from Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates. They conducted a national poll of registered voters on landlines and cell phones from April 28 to May 2. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
“This is just not something we see on lots of different government investments or different programs around the country,” said Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies. “Early-childhood education is really unique.”
Both Democrats (80 percent) and Republicans (60 percent) supported raising the existing child care tax credit from $3,000 to $9,000 for one child to better reflect the cost of child care today. There was also bipartisan support for increasing funding for programs like Head Start, with 95 percent of Democrats in favor compared to 74 percent of Republicans.
“Voters see it as proactive,” said Weigel. “They see it as a clear need in their communities, and lots of voters tell us it directly affects their own lives.”
Many voters lamented the lack of early-childhood programs that are high quality and affordable in their areas; 44 percent said there were only some or a few in their communities. But Democrats were more likely to make this claim, 53 percent compared to 39 percent of independents and 36 percent of Republicans.
Nearly 60 percent of the voters surveyed said Congress and the president are not paying enough attention to issues surrounding early-childhood education. That jumps to 85 percent for African-American voters.
Disconnect Between Congress, Voters
The pollsters also found that nearly 8 in 10 voters surveyed wanted to see Congress and the Trump administration work together on improving the quality and affordability of child care and preschool. That includes 79 percent of voters who supported Hillary Clinton in last year’s election and 80 percent of voters who backed Donald Trump.
Jay Campbell, a Hart Research Associates partner, said the results show some key differences from political leaders in Washington and voters on both the left and right.
“What’s surprising and dismaying is that Republican leadership in Congress doesn’t seem to think that Republican voters do care about these issues, that they’d rather just cut, cut, cut and only care about the deficit and not about specific programs,” said Campbell. “On the other side of the aisle, Democratic leaders in Congress seem to think that rank-and-file Democrats don’t want to do anything that would benefit the Trump administration in any way shape or form. Well, that’s just not how Democratic voters are viewing issues like this. There’s a persistent disconnect between elected leaders in Washington and actual voters.”
Graphic: The First Five Year Fund’s 2017 national poll found a lot of agreement between Republicans, independents and Democrats when it comes to increasing spending for ECE. Courtesy Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.