Spotlight Exclusives

Poll Finds Strong Bipartisan Support for Pro-Family Policies

Ed Goeas and Celinda Lake Ed Goeas and Celinda Lake, posted on

While partisan infighting continues in earnest on Capitol Hill, a new poll finds strong bipartisan support for economic, pro-family policies such as paid family leave, providing mental health supports for young people and new mothers, and increasing the Child Tax Credit. The national survey of 800 voters, conducted by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners is the latest indication that voters want to see productive compromise solutions on issues that matter to them. Ed Goeas and Brian  Nienaber of the Tarrance Group and Celinda Lake and Daniel Gotoff from Lake Research spoke with Spotlight recently about the results. The transcript of that conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Celinda and Ed, great to see you again. Why don’t we start with both of you underlining the things you were most surprised about in the poll results.

Lake: I think the surprising thing for me was the strength of support for these policies. I would’ve thought that most of these policies would have majority support, but I did not think they would have the kind of astronomical level of support that they have in our data. Some of these policies are almost core values. The second thing I was surprised at was how bipartisan the support is. There definitely is a little bit of change between Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, but you still have Republicans overwhelmingly supportive of these policies. The third thing that surprised me — because with inflation and rising costs, we’ve seen people become more tax sensitive, and particularly Latinos — we saw a great deal of support for tax credits for families. That didn’t surprise me, but we also saw support for policies, even if taxes are raised, and that was very surprising to me. I think a lot of politicians underestimate the magnitude of support for these family-oriented policies and family-oriented economic policies.


Goeas: I feel much the same way, but I do think there’s a couple of things you have to look at. One is the support was very, very high, but as you often find in these kinds of policies, the devils are in the details once you get into it. Something that Celinda and I both talk about is finding common ground on issues out there, but part of finding common ground also is how do you pay for it once you have the common ground. I think you start with very strong support, and I think if both parties were coming in and saying, this is something we really want to do, that it could survive the devil in details phase. And that was, to me, the most important thing about the numbers being so high, is that it offers a lot of wiggle room. I always get nervous on taxes, and I think that’s something you still have to finesse to get through. But I think if you label these as family-oriented issues, you have a lot to work with. One message is to quit being so partisan and focus on solutions.

You’ve both done lots of previous polling. There is the feeling by some that the reaction to the Dobbs decision has prompted the Republican party to be more open towards family friendly policies. Do you think these results reflect that of previous polling?

Goeas: No.

Celinda, any thoughts on that?

Lake: I think it probably does, but we didn’t honestly ask those questions. I also think this agenda was pretty darn popular before Dobbs. In recent years, these issues have often been jettisoned out of larger pieces of legislation to win a compromise. What this data really reveals is that there is a comprehensive agenda here that is quite popular. It is quite bipartisan. There is some gender gap, but not huge, frankly, and the levels of support are way beyond what people would predict. And so, what this leads me to say to candidates in 2024, there is a real agenda here about policies to help families. It intersects with what’s going on in terms of instability, the post-COVID environment, the financial situation that families are facing with rising costs of living. It is a winning agenda and both parties should be working together to come up with some compromises and some solutions on these policies because men, women, people of every race, people of every party, rural voters, suburban voters, non-college whites — all the target groups that everybody says they’re interested in — are all overwhelmingly in favor.

Goeas: I agree with that, and I don’t want to undercut that at all. But I think, again, getting to the devil and the details, I think if this comes across as I want all these policies and I want you to pay for it, then it starts coming apart. I think there needs to be also a little discussion of how do we all share in this as opposed to the finger pointing, the “They need to pay their fair share, and they’re not, when in fact, I’m not paying any of the share” kind of rhetoric.

Lake: I have a little bit different view of that, but the paying your fair share sentiment is quite popular and the tax credit mechanism for working families is popular as well. If I may edit what you’re saying a little bit, I think that what this data shows is there’s actually a package of funding mechanisms that are quite popular with people — more tax credits for working people, more tax credit for children, and making the wealthy and big businesses pay their fair share.

Let’s take the Child Tax Credit specifically, which is a measure that hasn’t appeared to be as popular as many Democrats thought it was going to be. Does this data refute that, or indicate that majorities would be open to a scaled-down CTC or one that has a work component built into it?

Lake: I think one of the secret things about this data, and one of the major advancement forwards of this data is that we provided a rationale for why we were doing these policies. And it seems obvious now, but it was really a breakthrough. So often these questions are asked along the lines of, do you want to increase the Child Tax Credit from $2000 to $3000? Here, we ask, do you want to increase the Child Tax Credit from $2000 to $3000 to reflect the higher costs of raising children? Similarly, we asked if you supported increasing tax relief for families with children under two, since that can often be the time when raising children is most expensive. We actually simulated here having a conversation — not just talking about spending in the abstract but a narrative about what it’s like to be a working family. And that gained significant support. It moved Democrats from being in favor to being universally in favor and many, many of these Democrats do not have children. And we moved the Independents and Republicans into astronomical levels of support.

The other thing that’s really important about this agenda is that its bipartisan. And it’s interesting to note that there was one policy that had a little bit more partisan polarization, and that was family leave. And I think that’s because it’s become a partisan fight. The policy used to be quite bipartisan. And I think that’s a cautionary tale. Voters want us to work together to compromise to get this done.

Brian, did you want to add to that?

Nienaber: I think the fight they’re going to have in Congress is these ideas are popular, but how do you square the circle on paying for it in an environment where people are really worried about inflation and people are really worried about increased government spending? How can you implement these family-friendly policies without massive spending that’s going to have an inflationary effect?

And Brian, do you and Ed agree with what Celinda is saying, and I’ve heard others say this, that these policies are sometimes more appealing to people on the right, if they’re talked about in terms of the frame of helping the family rather than poverty reduction?

Nienaber: Absolutely. Yeah. If you look at married with children, or specifically married White women, the family component brings them in a little more.

Lake: I think the other thing about it is these are not policies that just help low-income families, even though for Democrats that’s enough. If we just did that, that would be plenty for us. One question that I wish we had tweaked the wording on in retrospect is illustrative. We asked about increasing funding for housing development programs and rent subsidy programs that make housing more affordable for low-income people. Democrats remained overwhelmingly in favor of it at 94%, Independents were quite strong at 73%, but in a survey where two-thirds to three quarters of voters supported these policies who were Republican, that dropped down to 52% on this question. There is still a majority, but I thought in retrospect, that was kind of old-fashioned wording. And what we should have used is our moniker that we used in these other policies, that this would go to offset rising costs for working families. When you frame these as helping families in the current environment, you generate a tremendous amount of support for these policies.

You mentioned paid leave, and that’s an issue where there are at least some glimmers of bipartisan cooperation in the House, where there’s now a small bipartisan caucus. What’s a better way to frame that issue?

Lake: The data shows that you still have 68% support, but that’s 10 points under what we used to generate. I think if we want to get this policy going, we need to have Republicans take more of a leadership role since Republicans are the ones that are pulling away from it. We need to emphasize the help for working families in the post-COVID environment. We need to make it a current policy, as it seems like an old debate to people now. And we need to bring in the small business voice. I think we need to explain better the funding mechanisms, and we need to word this in a way, as we did most of the other policies, that makes it more relevant to families in the post-COVID era.

Goeas: I’ll throw in an aside, and Celinda and I have talked about this a few times, and that’s the Democrats’ rhetoric about major corporations paying their fair share. When you’re talking about family issues like this, I think you will have resistance if you take that route too much. Why corporations don’t pay tax as many taxes is largely based on policies that have developed over the years that encourage people to put resources into a business that creates jobs. And then once they put those resources in, they begin to get depreciation. And so, there’s an easy take of big businesses not paying their part, but that could also add additional risk when companies make investments that create the jobs for many of these families out there. Then, you get a little bit of a different discussion.

Lake:  About 73% of the people favor increasing taxes on large corporations, and it’s pretty bipartisan support, and Independents are some of the feistiest about it. The rationale you lay out may have been an effective argument in the past, but when you have billionaires not paying a minimum tax and well-known corporations paying zero taxes, I think people feel it’s gone too far.

Were there particular demographic groups that jumped out at you in this poll?  The one that struck me was Latino women and the strength of support there, but I wanted to see if there was anything else that was notable to you two.

Lake: I want to make sure that Daniel has a chance to fill in anything I left out, because he’s really the expert here, but I agree with you, the numbers on Latinos and Hispanic women were very, very strong. The numbers on seniors I was surprised at because seniors are very hard hit by inflation. They obviously don’t have children, but they have grandchildren. And one of the things that we’re finding here is this working families narrative around children reaches way beyond parents. I was surprised at how much the Independents resemble Democrats, but most of all, as I said it in the beginning, I think this data is breakthrough data in terms of how to engage in a bipartisan conversation in a uniquely partisan environment.

Goeas: I think that one danger in this data, though not exactly what we’ve been talking about, is a central question: do members of Congress, increasingly from the far right and the far left, just want to fight about this or do they want to find solutions? It’s a great message. It has a huge impact on voters because so many of the voters are truly in the middle. But in America, our elected officials are not. And if they use this just to cause a fight between one side or the other, that’s not going to benefit either side.

Daniel, we’ll give you the last word.

Gotoff: Well, I think you got really good last words already from Ed and Celinda, but I just want to underscore the point that both of them are making, that there’s a real support across the board for these policies and for this agenda as a whole among the voting groups that really decide elections. I think this is an agenda that really could unite across partisan lines and possibly put some constituencies in play that haven’t been for a while.


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