Voters to Presidential Candidates: Speak About Child Policy!

Iowa voters have deep concern about the future of children and want the Presidential candidates to focus policy attention on their health, education, and wellbeing according to a public opinion poll conducted by Selzer & Company  for the Child and Family Policy Center and Every Child Matters Education Fund. A solid majority (65%) express skepticism that “the life for the next generation will be better than for us.” Reflecting this concern, an even greater majority (68%) say they find it very or fairly important for candidates to focus on issues that affect children’s health, education, and wellbeing in the presidential debates, starting on August 6th in Cleveland.

Improving the health, education, and well-being of America’s children is so important to voters that they rank it as their top issue concern – 29 percent of all voters rank it as their first or second concern compared with 23 percent for “jobs and the economy.” [See Survey Results]

“Iowa voters clearly want presidential hopefuls to speak directly to how their policy stances will affect children,” said Brian Ahlberg, President of the Every Child Matters Education Fund and co-commissioner of the poll. “They want campaign debate to focus on which investments are needed to assure the best opportunities for kids’ success.”

“The strong interest in a positive agenda for policies affecting kids held true in our survey for voters across party, ideology, education level, income and age,” Ahlberg said. For example, “Seniors even rate policies for children above those related to their own economic security.”

“Other voter responses also indicate that Presidential candidates will be favorably regarded for emphasizing their approaches to important child policy concerns – including child abuse prevention, health care, afterschool programs, and early care and education services,” noted Charles Bruner, Director of the Child and Family Policy Center and co-commissioner of the poll.

Overall, voters currently give Democrats the nod in being more likely to “improve the health, education, and well-being of children” than Republicans. A majority (56%) chose the Democrats on this while just a quarter (25%) chose the Republicans, while the rest said neither party or both parties equally are likely to address children’s needs. At the same time, 69 percent of voters affiliating themselves with the Republican Party indicate their party offers the better hope for improving the wellbeing of children, while 91 percent of those affiliating with the Democratic party state their party would do a better job. Independents give the nod to Democrats (51%), but a large percentage (33%) leave the question open as to which party would do a better job.

For presidential candidates to compete on children’s issues in the fall of 2016, the poll suggests that candidates running for the nomination would benefit from laying out a comprehensive agenda for children. Across parties and caucus goers, more voters are likely to view Presidential candidates favorably than unfavorably who spell out their agendas for children on expanding health coverage, preventing child abuse and neglect, reducing poverty, providing afterschool programs, and ensuring child care assistance for working families.

Despite the ongoing battles over the federal budget in Washington and the implementation of automatic cuts some call “sequestration,” few voters (27%) are aware that the overall funding for children’s programs has gone down in recent years. Most (43%) believe that funding has stayed the same, while 19% say it has increased. While confusion reigns over what has happened in the past, voters are clear what they want in the future – the president and Congress need to invest more in child wellbeing. A majority (52%) want an increase while just 11% want the type of reductions that are likely if Congress does not act to lift sequestration.