Members of Congress have introduced legislation by which the Federal government would work with state governments to expand access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for low income families.
Respondents were introduced to a proposal for expanding free educational programs for children aged four or younger, based on S. 473, H.R. 2528 and H.R. 3604 from the 114th Congress. They were told:
Another major proposal for helping families in poverty is to expand access to early childhood education. This has two benefits for families in poverty:
- It provides education to poor children.
- It provides childcare for working parents.
Currently, only a small number of 4-year-old children in low-income families attend pre-kindergarten programs. The federal government could provide funds to help states build or expand programs, so that more 4-year-old children from low-income families have access to such programs.
Currently, only a small number of children age 3 and under in low-income families have access to the Early Head Start program, which helps some states provide care and early education to infants and toddlers from low-income households.
The proposal for the federal government to help states build, or expand and upgrade, their early childhood education programs would:
- Make pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in low-income families. To qualify, for example, a family of three (a single parent and two children) would make less than $37,540 per year.
- Expand the availability of Early Head Start programs to more children aged three and under from low-income families. To qualify, for example, a family of three (a single parent and two children) would make less than $18,770 per year.
This proposal would cost the federal government about $8 billion per year.
Surrounding this proposal is a controversy about the long-term effectiveness of such preschool programs for poor children. Research indicates that poor children who go through such programs do better when they enter school, but this advantage fades after the first one to two years. However, there is also some evidence, though not as strong, that in high school some of these advantages reappear. Also, proponents of the proposal emphasize that with more research improvements can be made to increase long-term effectiveness.
Presented arguments for and against expanding access to early childhood education, the argument in favor did substantially better (81% to 49%). The pro argument was found convincing by majorities of both Republicans and Democrats. The con argument was found convincing only by a majority of Republicans, with just one third of Democrats feeling the same.
Respondents were then asked whether they would favor or oppose a proposal that would:
- Make pre-kindergarten available to all 4-year-olds in low-income families; and
- Expand the availability of Early Head Start programs, which provide care and early education from birth until the age of 3 for infants and toddlers from low income households.
Over seven in ten supported the proposal. A large majority of Democrats favored the proposal (90%) as did a bare majority of Republicans (52%).
Related Standard Polls
A bipartisan majority has favored providing free pre-kindergarten to children in their state:
- Asked whether they favor, “providing free pre-kindergarten services to all children in your state”, 80% were in favor, including 65% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (April 2017, PRRI)
In a question that framed the issue of pre-kindergarten in terms of local taxpayer support versus parents paying for their own children, two thirds favored local taxpayers supporting pre-kindergarten, with Republicans divided.
- Asked whether “pre-kindergarten programs in your state should be supported by local taxpayers like public schools,” or “parents [should] be obligated to pay for such programs for their children themselves,” 66% chose taxpayer funding, including 79% of Democrats. Republicans were divided, with 49% choosing taxpayer funding and 50% parent funding. (April 2017, PRRI)
In a question that asked respondents to choose between federal funding for programs for all children or letting the states decide, attitudes broke sharply along party lines.
- Asked whether “the federal government should fund pre-kindergarten programs for all children nationwide,” or whether “funding pre-kindergarten programs for all children [should] be left to each individual state government to decide,” 52% endorsed the latter, and 47% the former. Among Republicans, 70% chose letting states decide. Among Democrats, 65% chose federal funding. (February 2014, CBS/New York Times) [Note: The legislative proposal explored in the PPC study that elicited bi-partisan support envisioned the federal government taking the lead, but working with state governments.]
When placed in the context of the federal deficit, a majority found unacceptable the idea of reducing spending on the Head Start pre-kindergarten program, but a majority of Republicans found it acceptable:
- Respondents were told they would be introduced to “a number of programs that could be cut significantly as a way to reduce the current federal budget deficit.” Asked whether they thought that “significantly cutting the funding” for the “Head Start pre-kindergarten program” was acceptable or unacceptable, 56% found it unacceptable, including 70% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 38% found it unacceptable and 61% acceptable. (February 2011, NBC/Wall Street Journal)
Status of Legislation
The proposal to expand access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for low income families was in S. 473 sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D), H.R. 2528 by Rep. SusanDavis (D) and H.R. 3604 by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) in the 114th Congress. The proposal was reintroduced by Rep. Eleanor Homes Norton (D) in H.R. 5906 in the 115th Congress.
In the 116th Congress, were two pieces of legislation ithat would provide universal access to early childhood education:
- The Universal Pre-kindergarten and Early Childhood Education Act (H.R. 4213), sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), which would give grants to states to cover up to 80% of the costs of providing free pre-kindergarten and kindergarten to all children; and
- the Universal Full-Day Kindergarten Act (H.R. 1971) by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D), which would give states grants to provide free kindergarten to all children.
In the 117th Congress, a proposal to provide universal access to preschool is in the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, sponsored by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D) (H.R. 2886) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) (S. 1398), which has not yet made it out of committee.
Members of Congress introduced the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 2408, S. 2224), which would create a commission to develop a plan for eliminating childhood poverty.
Respondents were introduced to this proposal, as follows:
Some lawmakers have called for specifically targeting child poverty. One proposal before Congress would set the goal of reducing child poverty by half and ultimately eliminating it. A commission that would develop a national plan, working with the National Academy of Sciences to reduce within 10 years the number of children living in poverty by half. Over the following 10 years the number would be reduced as close to zero as possible.
Congress would still have to pass legislation enacting the plan, and the president would still need to sign the legislation into law.
When asked to evaluate arguments pro and con, the argument in favor did substantially better (82% to 57%). The pro arguments were found convincing by large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats. Responses to the con argument were much more partisan, with a majority of Republicans convinced, but just four in ten Democrats.
In the end, a large bipartisan majority of three in four favored Congress setting up a commission to develop a plan to reduce child poverty by half in 10 years and as close to zero as possible in 20 years. This included a substantial majority of Democrats (89%) as well as nearly six in ten Republicans.
Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 78% agreed with the majority position, including 62% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)
Status of Legislation
The proposal to create a Congressional commission to develop a plan for eliminating childhood poverty was in the Child Poverty Reduction Act (H.R. 2408, S. 2224), sponsored by Rep. Danny Davis (D) and Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D) in the 114th Congress. The bill was reintroduced by the same sponsors in the 116th Congress (H.R. 7419, S. 4115). The bill has not made it out of committee.
In 2019, the National Academies of Science was commissioned to study child poverty in the US, and solutions for addressing it. Their report, “A Roadmap to Reduce Child Poverty”, included policy recommendations that could reduce child poverty by half.
HELPING THE WORKING POOR
There has been concern that the federal minimum wage, because it has not been increased in several years, has been decreasing in inflation-adjusted value.
To address this concern, Members of Congress have introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage. The proposals presented to respondents were based on H.R.2150 and S. 1150 from the 114th Congress.
Respondents were first presented the following information about the federal minimum wage.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Here is how much a full-time worker earns at that rate before taxes:
- A single person earning minimum wage and working full-time is a bit above the poverty line. However, someone earning minimum wage with one or more children, or a spouse who does not work, is under the poverty line. Thus, raising the minimum wage would lift a significant number of people above the poverty line.
- Raising the minimum wage would not create costs for the federal government, although it would increase costs to employers.
- Raising the minimum wage is controversial among economists. Some economists argue that increasing it could lead some employers to not create new jobs and even lay off employees. Other economists say this is not the case, pointing to cases when the minimum wage was increased in one state but not in another neighboring state, and employment rates were no different between the states.
They evaluated arguments in favor of and against raising the minimum wage. The argument in favor did much better, with 72% finding it convincing compared to 56% convinced by the con argument. The pro argument was found much more convincing by Democrats than Republicans, while the opposite was true of the con argument.
They were then presented two proposals for raising the minimum wage that have been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for their potential effect on the number of households under the poverty line, and employment. The first was presented as follows:
The first proposal would raise the minimum wage over a two-year period from $7.25 to $9.00.
CBO estimates that with this option the most likely outcomes would be:
- About 7.6 million people would have an increase in their weekly earnings.
- About 300,000 people would have their household income rise above the poverty line.
- The number of jobs in the economy would decline by about 100,000, or 0.07%.
Nationally, three quarters favored this proposal, including 58% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats.
The second proposal was presented as follows:
The second proposal that the CBO analyzed goes further. It would raise the current minimum wage over a three-year period from $7.25 to $10.10.
CBO estimates that with this option the most likely outcomes would be:
- About 16.5 million people would have an increase in their weekly earnings.
- About 900,000 people would have their household income rise above the poverty line.
- The number of jobs in the economy would decline by about 500,000 or 0.35%.
This proposal was endorsed by 57% overall, including 78% of Democrats but only one in three Republicans.
Respondents were also given the opportunity to specify exactly what they thought the minimum wage should be three years from now. Overall, the majority said it should be $10 an hour. Among Republicans, the majority recommended $9, and among Democrats, $11.50.
Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 79% agreed with the majority position to raise the minimum wage to $9, including 59% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)
Results from CDD’s Survey
The 2019 deliberative poll by Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy asked respondents whether they favor or oppose, “increas[ing] the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $15/hour.” Before providing their final response, they were presented with briefing materials on poverty and poverty programs, as well as arguments for and against increasing the minimum wage. On a 0-10 scale, just 39% were in favor (6-10), including 16% of Republicans and a majority of Democrats (59%). Including the middle position -- defined as "in the middle" -- those not opposed was 54%, including 78% of Democrats but just 29% of Republicans.
Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support decreased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (54% to 39%), and among Republicans (21% to 16%) and Democrats (83% to 59%). Those who were not opposed to the proposal (5-10) also decreased overall (69% to 54%), and among Republicans (37% to 29%) and Democrats (91% to 78%).
Related Standard Polls
When asked whether the minimum wage should be increased at all, bipartisan majorities have favored increasing it:
- Informed that, “the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour,” they were then asked if they favored increasing it. Seventy one percent were in favor, including 86% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans. (January 2016, AP-NORC)
- Informed that “the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour,” they were then asked if they favored increasing it. Seventy three percent were in favor, including 87% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans. (December 2015, Pew)
When the question has been not only what the minimum wage should be, but includes the option of not having a minimum wage, a majority have still favored increasing it. However, given the option, a substantial number of Republicans have elected to not have a minimum wage, and support for increasing has dropped below half.
- Asked whether “the minimum wage [should be] raised, kept the same, lowered but not eliminated, or eliminated altogether,” 55% felt it should be raised (Republicans 30%, Democrats 80%). Another 34% felt it should be kept the same (Republicans 52%, Democrats 17%). Another 2-4% felt it should be lowered, and 8% felt it should be eliminated (Republicans 14%, Democrats 1%). (2016, American National Election Survey Pilot)
- When another sample was asked the same question, 64% felt it should be raised (Republicans 43%, Democrats 81%). Another 29% felt it should be kept the same (Republicans 47%, Democrats 15%). Just 2-3% felt it should be lowered, and 4% eliminated (Republicans 7%, Democrats 1%). (2016, American National Election Survey Time Series)
When asked about raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, a large majority has favored it, but not among Republicans:
- Asked, “If your state put the following questions for a vote on the ballot, would you vote for or against,” 65% said they would vote for a measure to “raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour,” including 92% of Democrats, but only 35% of Republicans (65% opposed). (2018, Harvard CCES)
- Respondents who favored raising the minimum wage past the current $7.25 an hour were asked whether they, “favor or oppose increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour.” Of the total sample, 52% favored, including 70% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans. (January 2016, AP-NORC)
When asked about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, modest majorities favor it, but only small minorities of Republicans. Attitudes have remained fairly stable over the last several years:
- Asked whether they support, “raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour,” 53% were in support, including 87% of Democrats but just 20% of Republicans. (March 2021, Monmouth University)
- Asked the same question as above, 61% were in support, including 88% of Democrats but just 33% of Republicans. (February 2021, Quinnipiac University)
- Asked whether they think “a national minimum wage of $15 an hour,” is a “good idea or a bad idea,” 54% said it was a good idea, including 81% of Democrats but just 26% of Republicans. (December 2019, NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist)
- Asked whether they support, “increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour,” 63% were in support, including 82% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans. (December 2018, PRRI/The Atlantic)
- Asked whether they favor, “an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour,” 58% were in favor, including 80% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans. (August 2016, Pew)
Status of Legislation
The proposal for raising the minimum wage was in H.R. 2150 sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D) and S. 1150 by Sen. Patty Murray (D) in the 114th Congress. These bills did not make it out of committee.
There are a few pieces of legislation in the 116th Congress that would raise the minimum wage.
The Fight for a Modern Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 3728) by Rep. Tom Rooney (R) would increase the minimum wage to $8.50, and then tie it to regional inflation measures.
The Fair Wage Act (H.R. 4443), by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) would increase the minimum wage by taking into account cost-of-living-adjustments into the calculation each year.
Lastly, the Original Living Wage Act (H.R. 122) by Rep. Al Green (D) would set the minimum wage at 125% of the poverty line for a family of four.
These bills have not made it out of committee.
The Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582, S. 150), sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, and then tie it to a measure based on median wages. It passed the House, with 228 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting in favor, and 6 Democrats, 192 Republicans and 1 independent voting against. It has not yet been taken up by the Senate.
Respondents were presented with the following briefing material as part of an in-person deliberation by Stanford University’s Center for Deliberative Democracy in September 2019:
Another proposal is to increase the generosity of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits low income workers, especially those with children. For those with no children, the maximum income a person can earn and still be eligible is $15,270. This eligibility level rises to $40,320 for people with one child and to $49,194 for people with three or more children. Those with no children can receive up to $519 under the EITC; those with three or more can receive up to $6,431.
Some think that the EITC should be made more generous, either by permitting those who make more money to be eligible for the subsidies or by allocating more money to those who already qualify (or both). Supporters argue that the EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs because it encourages work. The credit grows as work and wages increase, encouraging people to work more. It also injects much-needed resources into low-income families, who may help the economy by spending that money.
Critics say that there are more effective ways to grow the economy, such as by encouraging investment in new businesses and ideas. They believe that the tax system already treats the poor generously enough — nearly half of Americans pay no federal income taxes, in most cases because they don’t earn enough money, and there are a large number of programs and grants to assist the poor. These Americans still pay state taxes, property taxes, sales and other taxes. Some add that the government should not subsidize people for having children and that the EITC does this by giving greater benefits to those with more children.
They were presented with a proposal and arguments for and against it, as follows:
Proposal: Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which provides a benefit to low-income workers, to more middle-class workers.
Argument in Favor: The EITC is among the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs. It also increases female work participation, and it has bipartisan support. But it phases out at low levels of income, especially for those without children. Expanding it would provide these benefits to more taxpayers.
Argument Against: Federal revenue is not unlimited. Expanding the EITC to middle-class workers would require either trimming benefits from the working poor or raising taxes to finance the new benefits. Thus, keeping the EITC’s focus on the working poor makes better sense.
After receiving the briefing material, respondents deliberated on the proposals in-person. Finally, they were asked for their final recommendation. On a 0-10 scale, with 5 being “in the middle”, 82% favored the proposal (6-10), including 71% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats.
Before receiving any briefing materials or engaging in the deliberation process, respondents were given the same poll question as those asked afterwards. Support increased from the pre-deliberation poll to the post-deliberation poll, overall (73% to 82%) and among Republicans (60% to 71%). Democrats were unchanged.
Status of Legislation
Currently, there are provisions in the Foster Opportunity EITC Act by Rep. Davis (D) (H.R. 4954) and Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D) (S. 2790) in the 116th Congress that would reform EITC by increasing credits for individuals with no children, extending the age limit for credits from 65 to 68, and lowering the credit eligibility age for individuals with no children.
There are also provisions in the WRCR Act (H.R. 5271) by Rep. Gwen Moore (D) in the 116th Congress that would reform EITC by increasing the maximum credit to $4,000, counting family caregiving as work, making credits available to certain low-income students, decreasing the eligibility age for workers without children from 25 to 18, and increasing eligibility to over 65.
Neither of these bills have made it out of committee.
Members of the 114th Congress introduced legislation (H.R.4946, S.2327) that would reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), by increasing the credits available to low wage workers without children, among other reforms mean to increase the number of people eligible for EITC.
Before being presented with the above proposal, respondents were first introduced to this topic by being presented with information about the EITC. They were told that EITC supplements the income of low-wage workers, and that nearly all of EITC goes to workers with children, with credits up to $6,242 a year. Low-wage workers without children get much less—the maximum is $503 a year.
They were then told that they would assess three proposals to raise benefits for workers without children:
- Proposal One: Raise the maximum benefit from $503 to $1,000 (per year).
- Proposal Two: Increase the maximum earnings they can make and be eligible for EITC from $14,820 to $18,000.
- Proposal Three: Lower the age when workers without children can first get EITC from 25 to 21.
The argument in favor of increasing benefits was found convincing by a very high and bipartisan 77%, including 70% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats; while the argument against was found convincing by just 58%, including 69% of Republicans but less than half of Democrats.
When asked for their recommendations, six in ten recommended increasing the maximum amount a worker can make and still receive benefits from $14,820 to $18,000, including two thirds of Democrats. Among Republicans 51% were in favor.
Proposals one and three did not get majority support.
Status of Legislation
The proposals to reform the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) for people without children, by increasing the credits, expanding the age of eligibility, and increasing the amount of money a person can make and still be eligible for credits was in H.R.4946 by Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and S.2327 by Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D) in the 114th Congress. These bills did not make it out of committee.
Similar provisions were in the Foster Opportunity EITC Act by Rep. Davis (D) (H.R. 4954) and Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D) (S. 2790) in the 116th Congress, which would increase credits for individuals with no children, extend the age limit for credits from 65 to 68, and lower the credit eligibility age for individuals with no children. These bills did not make it out of committee.
As part of the American Rescue Plan, EITC benefits for workers without children were increased temporarily. President Biden and Democrats in Congress have put forward a proposal to extend these increased benefits for at least three more years.
There has been concern that many workers, especially low-wage workers, are not receiving their full wages from their employers, something referred to as ‘wage theft.
To address this concern, Members of the 114th Congress introduced House Amendment 138, which would prohibit companies found guilty of wage theft from bidding on government contracts. It failed in the House in 2015.
In 2016, the Obama administration issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which, among other labor reforms, prevented companies that engaged in wage theft from bidding on government contracts. In 2017, a resolution was passed in both the House (H.J.Res 37) and the Senate (S.J.Res 12) that repealed those regulations.
Before learning about the specific proposal, respondents were introduced to the topic of wage theft:
Another problem for the working poor is that they are not always fully paid for the hours they have worked. Research shows that in some industries—especially farming, construction, and restaurants--this is a problem that significantly reduces the pay of low-income workers.
When a worker is not paid, there is a system in place to deal with it. He or she can make a complaint to the local office of the Labor Department. However, this system is not entirely effective, as there are still many cases of unpaid wages, largely because:
- The process for getting unpaid wages is slow and cumbersome.
- Many workers do not even use it, often out of fear that if they do they will get fired.
They were then introduced to a proposal for addressing wage theft:
A proposal in Congress would put greater pressure on companies to pay wages in full, by making it more costly if they are found responsible for unpaid wages while under a government contract.
Currently, if an employer is found guilty of not paying wages under a government contract, the company has to pay those wages plus some interest, but can still make bids to get future government contracts.
The proposal is that if such a company is found guilty, they will also lose the right to make bids to get future government contracts.
The argument in favor of this proposal was found convincing by overwhelming majorities of over 85% in both parties, while the argument against did quite poorly, with a bipartisan majority finding it unconvincing.
In making their final recommendation, an overwhelming majority nationally of nine in ten , with similar numbers in both parties, endorsed the proposal to take away a business’ right to bid on government contractors if they are found guilty of wage theft.
Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 95% agreed with the majority position, including 93% of Republicans and 97% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)
Status of Legislation and Executive Order
The proposal to prohibit companies found guilty of wage theft from bidding on government contracts was in H. Amdt. 138 by Rep. Mark Pocan (D) in the 114th Congress. It failed in the House, with 183 Democrats and 3 Republicans voting in favor and 237 Republicans voting against.
In 2016, the Obama administration issued the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which prevented companies that engaged in wage theft from bidding on government contracts.
However, in 2017, H.J. Res 37 sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) and S.J. Res 12 by Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in the 115th Congress were passed, which repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulations. It passed the House with 233 Republicans and 3 Democrats voting in favor, and 1 Republican and 186 Democrats voting against. It then passed the Senate, with 49 Republicans voting in favor, and 48 Democrats voting against.
There has long been a debate over what role the government should play in job creation, when the government should step in, and, if so, what types of jobs should be created.
Members of the 113th Congress introduced legislation that would implement job creation programs. Respondents were presented proposals based on H.R. 1617, which would invest in job creation programs for school renovation, childcare and early education, community projects, and conservation.
At the time of the survey -- late 2016 to early 2017-- unemployment was historically low, so the issue was not so much an urgent need, but a more general debate about the role government should play when the demand for jobs is high.
To understand the idea of job creation programs, respondents were presented the following about unemployment:
According to the Census Bureau, about 4 million adults are living under the poverty line, are unemployed or underemployed, and are actively seeking work.
They were then introduced to the idea of government job creation as a potential solution to unemployment:
One possibility is for the federal government to invest funds to create jobs that would employ people who have been unemployed for a period. This would include many who live under or close to the poverty line.
Such jobs can be created by directing extra funds to a federal, state, or local program so that it can hire additional employees. Four examples of possible job creation programs were discussed.
Respondents then evaluated two pairs of arguments. The first pair of arguments concerned the government investing to create jobs. The argument in favor did far better than the argument against, except among Republicans who found both arguments convincing at similar rates.
The second pair of arguments concerned the idea that the government should not generally seek to create jobs, but should do so in difficult times. Again, the argument in favor did better than the argument against, except among Republicans who found both arguments convincing at similar rates.
Respondents were then presented four proposals for job creation with costs and the number of jobs they would likely produce. They were told that “For all these proposals, people who have been unemployed for a period--and are qualified to do the work--would be first to be hired.”
For each program, respondents could choose between three options:
- Favor program in current economic conditions
- Favor having this program ready to go if economic conditions get worse, but not starting it now
A majority or plurality overall favored enacting each of the four programs in current economic conditions, including a majority of Democrats, but not a majority of Republicans.
Assuming that those respondents who chose to enact the program in current economic conditions would also favor the program if economic conditions get worse, these respondents were combined with those who favored having this program ready if economic conditions get worse. Thus for all four programs a bipartisan majority favored having such a program if conditions get worse.
Response Without Undergoing Policymaking Simulation
When a separate sample was told the results of the survey above, 83% agreed with the majority position to “Have ready to go, if economic conditions get worse, a variety of federal jobs programs -- such as employing young people in conservation projects, hiring more workers to expand Head Start, and repairing and renovating schools,” including 69% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats. (PPC 2018)
Related Standard Polls
Bipartisan majorities have expressed support for federal job creation programs:
- Asked whether they support, “a federal jobs program that created jobs for the unemployed,” 78% were in support, including 71% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats. (October 2019, Hill/HarrisX)
- Asked whether they would, “vote for or against a federal law that would spend government money for a program designed to help create more than 1 million jobs,” 75% said they would, including 56% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. (March 2013, Gallup)
- Asked whether they would, “vote for or against a federal government program that would spend government money to put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs,” 77% said they would, including 63% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (March 2013, Gallup)
- Asked whether they support a policy to spend, “$100 billion to build and improve public schools,” as part of, “President Biden’s infrastructure plan,” 72% were in support (Democrats 87%, independents 63%, Republicans 62%). (April 2021, Morning Consult/Politico)
When they have been provided options that express ambivalence about Federal jobs programs,a large number of Republican have chosen them, bringing support below half. -- Asked whether they support “federal funding of community job creation for any person who can’t find a job,” 55% were in support, including 75% of Democrats. Among Republicans just 33% expressed support, less than half (44%) were opposed, while one in four chose chose “neither support nor oppose”(17%), or “not sure” (7%). (July 2018, Data for Progress)
When the federal jobs program is targeted at energy-efficient infrastructure, a bipartisan majority has been in favor, even when provided options that express ambivalence:
- Asked whether they support, “giving every unemployed American who wants one a job building energy-efficient infrastructure,” 66% were in support, including 81% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans. Just 13% opposed. And one in five chose “neither support nor oppose” (15%) or “not sure” (7%). (November 2018, Data for Progress)
When asked to choose between two clearly partisan strategies for creating jobs, Democrats have favored government spending programs, while Republicans lean slightly toward cutting taxes:
- Asked, “What do you think is a better way for the government to try to create jobs--by cutting taxes or by spending money on projects like roads, bridges and technology development,” 52% chose spending on projects (Republicans 35%, Democrats 68%), and 33% chose cutting taxes (Republicans 52%, Democrats 19%). The remainder said both equally (6%), neither (3%) or did not provide an answer (5%), with minimal partisan differences. (August 2012, ABC/Washington Post)
Status of Legislation
The proposals for job creation were in H.R. 1617 sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) in the 113th Congress, which would have invested in job creation programs for school renovation, childcare and early education, community projects, and conservation. This bill did not make it out of committee.
Currently, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act (H.R. 4278, S. 2457), sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) in the 116th Congress, would create a three-year pilot program at the Department of Labor to establish a federally funded jobs guarantee program in up to 15 high-unemployment communities. These programs would be run by local officials and jobs would be tailored to the communities’ needs, including infrastructure and clean energy. They would guarantee a job to any adult that wants one. The bill has not yet made it out of committee.
There are also proposals in the Green New Deal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), which would guarantee full employment by federally funding local job creation programs that aid in the transition to a clean-energy economy. The Green New Deal has not yet been introduced as legislation.
The most popular proposal involved having the US Forest Service hire young people to help preserve public lands, which would cost $250 million a year for two years and create 100,000 jobs. This was favored in current conditions by 57% nationally, 67% of Democrats, and a plurality of Republicans (47%). Combining these with those who favor having a program ready for when economic conditions get worse, support is 82% nationally, 89% among Democrats and 73% among Republicans.
Childcare and Early Education
The second most popular program was to hire child care workers and early education teachers to expand Headstart and similar programs, which would cost $3 billion a year for two years and create 100,000 jobs. Three quarters supported at least having this program ready for when economic conditions get worse (in current conditions 54%), including 91% of Democrats (in current conditions 72%) and 58% of Republicans (in current conditions 36%).
Another program would offer federal grants to states for repairing and renovating elementary and high school buildings, and would cost $50 billion a year for two years and create 650,000 jobs. Eight in ten supported at least having this program ready for when economic conditions get worse (in current conditions 48%), including 93% of Democrats (in current conditions 61%), and 69% of Republicans (in current conditions 35%).
Another program would offer grants to states and local governments for community projects such as reclaiming land affected by pollution, improving energy efficiency in a neighborhood, or renovating older public buildings, and would cost $30 billion a year for two years and create 750,000 jobs. Eight in ten supported at least having this program ready for when economic conditions get worse (in current conditions 49%), including 92% of Democrats (in current conditions 63%) and 69% of Republicans (in current conditions 35%).