Voters – nationally and in NC – want to see their lawmakers investing in early learning and child care. Across political party, race/ethnicity, geography, age, and parental status, voters agree – state and federal lawmakers should be doing more to support families in accessing critical early learning programs for young children.
In a December 2020 poll, large majorities of voters, both nationally and in swing states (including NC) said that they:
- Want the president and Congress to ensure that working families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning programs in 2021.
- Want their member of Congress to work with the Biden administration to enact these policies.
- Prioritize both affordability and quality when it comes to child care and early education programs.
- Favor multiple specific policies to help achieve this goal.
And there is broad agreement across age, race/ethnicity, geography, and party.
The First Five Years Fund (FFYF), a national bi-partisan advocacy organization for high quality early learning and child care, conducts a national poll every two years to understand how voters, across demographics and political affiliations, feel about investing in early education. The 2020 poll was an online survey of 1,004 registered voters nationwide. FFYF intentionally over-sampled voters in eight swing states, including North Carolina, for a total of 398 voters in those states. The interviews were conducted online from December 2 to 5, 2020. Full results are available here.
Since NC was one of the eight swing states that were over-sampled (along with AZ, FL, MO, OH, PA, WI, and WV), we will focus on the swing state results in this post. The national results were similar. The swing state poll results show broad bipartisan support for early learning and child care, including:
- 90% of voters favor doing more to (1) ensure that parents can find affordable, high-quality child care for their children up to age five, and (2) ensure that children begin Kindergarten with the knowledge/skills they need to do their best in school
- 84% of voters favor providing voluntary, high-quality preschool to three- and four-year-olds
Voters want lawmakers to prioritize child care and early learning:
- 75% of voters say that Congress and the president should take action in 2021 to ensure that all working families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning programs
- Even among the 25% of voters who say early learning programs should not be a priority for Congress/the president in 2021:
- 77% still favor doing more to ensure that parents can find and afford quality child care.
- 61% still favor doing more to provide high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-olds.
- 53% say it is extremely/very important that programs be affordable and available.
- 58% say it is extremely/very important that programs be high quality.
Voters recognize that both access to child care/preschool and quality of child care/preschool are critical components:
- 84% of voters say it is extremely/very important that child care and early learning programs be affordable and available to all
- 83% of voters say it is extremely/very important that child care and early learning programs be of high quality
Voter support for ensuring all working families have access to affordable, high-quality child care and early learning programs cuts across political party, age, parental status, geography, and race/ethnicity, as the following slide on the national polling data demonstrates:
The poll also asked respondents about their support for specific early learning programs. Each of the eight policies asked about had the support of at least 80% of voters nationally (and swing state voters’ responses were within 2-3 points of the national responses). The percent of voters agreeing with each statement is noted below (bolding added):
- Make child care more affordable by providing financial support to help working families pay some or all of the cost of quality care. What families pay would be on a sliding scale based on their income. 85% agreed.
- Make child care more affordable by providing parents with a tax credit to help pay for child care. The credit would be available to all working parents, regardless of how much they pay in federal income taxes. 85% agreed
- Improve existing child care facilities by increasing federal funding to make them safer and more appropriate for young children’s development, and meet the needs of children with disabilities. 87% agreed.
- Increase the number of available spaces for children in child care programs nationwide by increasing federal funding to build new child care facilities. 80% agreed.
- Increase the availability of quality child care for families by providing a tax credit to businesses that help their employees access and afford quality child care. 87%
- Make preschool more available by providing preschool to all three- and four-year-olds whose parents want to send them. The programs would have no cost to parents. Programs would have to meet rigorous standards for quality, including small class sizes and teaching children emotional and social skills. 84% agreed.
- Attract, retain, and support quality early childhood educators and caregivers by paying them better salaries and providing them with opportunities to increase their skills through ongoing training, education, and certification, which would improve the instruction and care that children receive. 88% agreed.
- Provide support to more at-risk families by expanding funding for voluntary home visiting programs. These programs pair new parents who feel they need help with nurses and other early childhood professionals who can answer parents’ questions, provide health and development screenings for babies and toddlers, and connect parents to resources in their communities such as nutrition support, child care, and healthcare. 83% agreed.
And there was support across political lines:
Members of Congress (and state legislators) can be assured that supporting early learning policies and funding is not a political liability – in fact, such support is a plus for the majority of voters in every party. In swing states (including NC):
- 70% of voters said they would be more likely to vote for their member of Congress if they supported these types of child care and early learning policies, including 89% of Democrats, 66% of Independents, and 51% of Republicans.
- 79% of voters said they wanted their member of Congress to work with Joe Biden to enact these kinds of child care and early learning policies, including 94% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 66% of Republicans.
In past years, NCECF has partnered with the First Five Years Fund to over-sample North Carolinians and ask a few additional questions. Those past polls show that public support for early education and investing in young children and families has grown steadily since 2014. For example:
- The percentage of NC voters saying we should do more for young children’s education increased by 15 points between 2014 and 2018 to 80 percent, including a 15-point increase among Republicans and a 27 percent increase among Independents.
- Support for expanded investments in the state’s signature early childhood programs, NC Pre-K and Smart Start, also grew over the same time period from 74 percent in 2014 to 86 percent in 2018, with Republican support increasing by 22 points.
The new 2020 poll data suggest that child care and early learning remains a bipartisan issue, with strong support across the political divide, and that voters of all geographies, ages, parental status and races/ethnicities support policies that make early care and education more accessible, affordable, and high-quality.