Yesterday, Zogby International released a new poll showing that poverty is a major concern for the American people in the run-up to the election. With one-in-eight Americans living in poverty, it’s time for our political leaders to start listening to the American people and do more to reduce poverty.
The Zogby poll, which was conducted in conjunction with the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Life Cycles Institute at the Catholic University of America, found that 58 percent of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate with a goal of cutting poverty in half in the next decade. Only eight percent said they would be less likely to do so. The poll also found that 58 percent of the electorate considered poverty a top priority for Congress and the President.
Indeed, the public not only supports fighting poverty in the abstract but also strongly supports a variety of specific solutions. Over 90 percent of those polled support universal education, including making sure every four- and five-year old can attend kindergarten. Over 80 percent support providing financial education, curbing predatory lending practices, expanding the earned income tax credit, and expanding Pell Grants so more people can afford to go to college.
Over 70 percent of respondents support providing healthcare to all Americans, raising the minimum wage, expanding food stamps, providing guaranteed childcare, and making it easier for workers to join unions. These programs would not only benefit the poor, but also the middle class—and 76 percent of Americans agree with that statement.
Americans understand that we need social programs to combat poverty because it is the result of a confluence of factors, many outside of individual control. When asked why people ended up in poverty, 80 percent of respondents cited problems such as low-paying jobs, lack of healthcare and education, and the difficulties people face in trying to build wealth. Only 44 percent said that most people were poor because they made bad decisions.
So with public support to combat poverty so high, what do we do next? A Poverty Taskforce, convened by the Action Fund’s sister organization, the Center for American Progress, has a plan incorporating many of these policies that would cut poverty in half in ten years. The plan is guided by four basic principles:
- Promoting decent work
- Providing opportunity to all
- Ensuring economic security
- Helping people build wealth.
The Center’s plan proposes 12 concrete steps to meet these goals—steps that are strongly supported by the vast majority of Americans. Americans are ready to do something about poverty. We understand the moral and economic imperative we have to help others, and we want our national leaders to acknowledge its importance as well.
As the Center’s report and the new poll makes clear, Americans have both the will and the way to reduce poverty. Now we just need our leaders to start acting on it. Congress and the president should begin working to implement these measures today.
For more information on the report: