Six in 10 voters support extending the pause on student loans and canceling at least $10,000 in loans
Voters under 45 support student debt cancellation in overwhelming numbers, and a new Courier Newsroom and Data for Progress poll shows that canceling some amount of federal student loan debt could be a political winner for President Joe Biden.
Tens of millions of Americans with federal student loans are holding their breath to see if they will have to start making payments again in September or if President Joe Biden could extend the pause on payments, or even cancel some of their debt.
If Biden takes those two steps, he would be doing something a 58% majority of Americans support, according to a new Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll.
That’s right: Nearly six in 10 voters support extending the pause on federal student loan payments, a moratorium that began in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and is currently set to expire at the end of August. Support for extending the break is particularly high among voters under 45, two-thirds of whom favor deferring payments. On the other hand, only 37% of voters oppose the extension of the break.
Of those 58% of voters who support the pause, well over half want the moratorium extended indefinitely or for at least a year.
The margin of support for federal student loan debt cancellation is even higher, with 58% of voters supporting some debt cancellation — including 45% who support cancellation of at least $25,000 — versus only 34% who categorically oppose the cancellation. Again, voters under 45 are particularly supportive of federal student debt cancellation.
This already high level of support jumps even higher when voters are asked whether they specifically support debt cancellation for middle- and low-income borrowers. Sixty-three percent of voters said they favored canceling at least $10,000 of debt for these populations.
Biden — who is reportedly considering canceling $10,000 in debt for every borrower earning less than $125,000 a year — has come under pressure from young Americans, student borrowers, activists and progressives to cancel a higher amount of debt. Cancellation supporters argue that debt cancellation is both morally right and politically beneficial, pointing out that Biden’s approval rating – which is dismal with voters under 35 – would benefit from a cancelation.
The data suggests the importance of this argument; Canceling some of the debt of the 43 million Americans with $1.6 trillion in federal student debt is popular and an electoral winner with young voters, who lean overwhelmingly toward the Democrats when they vote.
The survey asked voters if they would be more likely to vote if Biden canceled some student debt. While a majority of respondents overall said cancellation would not affect their voting plans, 44% of voters under 45 said they would be more likely to vote if the Biden administration was canceling the debt. Only 8% of this demographic said they would be less likely to vote if Biden canceled some level of debt, and another 48% said it would make no difference.
When asked if canceling Biden’s debt would make them more or less likely to vote for Democrats specifically, 41% of voters under 45 said they would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared to just 18% who said they would be less likely and 41% who said it wouldn’t matter. difference.
Some critics of student loan forgiveness have argued that it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem, since future generations will simply rack up more debt as the cost of higher education continues to rise. .
This is a point worth noting, and cancellation proponents generally agree that the exorbitant cost of education needs to be addressed and resolved. Their approach can perhaps best be summed up as “why not both?” Why not solve the problem and help people who are suffering now and prevent people from suffering in the future?
Most Americans support forgiving some amount of student loans, but an even higher percentage support addressing the root causes of the exorbitant cost of higher education.
An overwhelming 84% of voters think we should cut public college tuition or make it free, compared to just 12% who think the cost of public colleges should stay the same.
Even though there is tremendous support for reducing the cost of public universities and colleges, higher education reform will require concerted policy action at all levels of government – federal, state, and local.
Until lawmakers show the political will to do so, canceling student debt may be the best way to help lift millions of Americans from the weight of crippling debt.