New National Poll: Voters Now View Child Care as an Essential Service Like Healthcare and Education
The Coronavirus pandemic has opened voters’ eyes to the importance of child care for families — and the economy. Now voters are ready for sweeping federal action.
WASHINGTON — The results of a new national poll from the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) reveal the clear impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on voters’ views of America’s child care system — and the need for a significant public investment in meaningful child care policy solutions for working families and providers. In fact, 72% of voters nationally and 76% of voters in key battleground states support such an investment to ensure that every working parent who wants to do so could affordably send their child to the high-quality child care program of their choice. Most notably, however, this new data shows that 84% of American voters say high-quality, affordable child care for families with young children is an essential service — just like healthcare and education — with 79% of saying specifically that the pandemic has made it clear to them how essential a strong child care system is for families who need it.
The poll findings also make it clear that the nation’s child care crisis has impacted the views of voters of every ideological background, signaling to lawmakers that supporting early learning and care remains a rare unifying issue that comes with little political downside. In battleground states with tight Senate races, many of which will also be crucial in the presidential election, 83 percent of voters say that candidates for office, including president, should have plans and policies to help working parents afford high-quality child care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the indispensable role of child care for working families and the economy,” said FFYF Executive Director Sarah Rittling. “Voters understand that, just as healthcare and education are essential to our society, so too is quality child care — and voters support a significant, federal investment to make it more accessible and affordable to working families. Now, as we enter the final days of a bitter and divisive election, there is clear evidence that voters across the political spectrum view early learning and child care as smart policy and smart politics, and they feel a sense of urgency for meaningful action from their lawmakers in Washington.”
The compelling results of this new poll, conducted by a bipartisan team from Hart Research Associates and New Bridge Strategy, highlight the broad support for child care among Republican and Democratic voters alike and the unmistakable understanding among voters that child care is an essential service that deserves meaningful attention and investment from the federal government.
Key findings from the poll include:
- 84% of voters say high-quality, affordable child care for families with young children is an essential service – just like healthcare and education;
- 79% of voters say the COVID-19 crisis has shown us how essential it is that we build a child care system in this country that makes child care available and affordable to all families who need it;
- Two-thirds of all voters say that access to high-quality affordable child care is essential or very important to our ability to get the economy going;
- A majority of American voters (53%) think that federal funding for quality early education from birth to age five—including child care and preschool—should be increased.
The full results and analysis can be found at ffyf.org/2020poll
Earlier this summer, FFYF and the Center for American Progress released poll findings that showed intense voter support for Congress to provide significant, dedicated funding for child care in a COVID-19 recovery package. Support for emergency child care relief funding cut across party lines and among key constituencies, including those who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (74%), voters 65 and older (83%), suburban women (86%), and Black (97%) and Latinx (93%) voters. Nearly 90% of voters indicated they want child care providers at the front of the line for Congressional relief, regardless of the price tag, ahead of hotels, cruise lines, and real estate developers.
Meanwhile, results from a recent Bipartisan Policy Center survey found that 44% of parents found the lack of child care resources a barrier to their remote or in-person work. Additionally, more than half of the parents who have sought child care during the pandemic found it difficult to find quality care that falls within their budget. Parents are struggling to find affordable care for their young children, with 70% reporting their previous child care provider had closed their doors or reduced capacity to meet health and safety guidelines.
Additionally, according to data from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), approximately 40% of the nation’s child care providers say they will close permanently without financial assistance. Of those child care facilities that are currently open, 86% are serving fewer children now than they were prior to the pandemic. On average, enrollment is down by a whopping 67%. The Center for American Progress found that, on average, child care providers are facing a 47% increase in operating costs during the pandemic, with home-based family child care providers facing a 70 percent increase. With an estimated 4.5 million child care slots at risk of being permanently eliminated due to the pandemic, this child care crisis is on track to make life difficult for every American, and exacerbate the pain already felt by families who were living in child care deserts before the pandemic.
Overwhelming evidence and research show that high-quality early learning and care results in extensive short- and long-term benefits for children – particularly those living in poverty – including increased academic achievement, improved social & emotional development, and lifelong health & economic returns. Meanwhile, high-quality early learning and child care opportunities provide working families with better job stability and overall economic security, supporting the workforce of today and tomorrow. Improving access to high-quality education and care is also a smart investment for our nation; research shows that for every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education, society gains up to $7.30 in economic returns over the long-term.
The First Five Years Fund is the leading bipartisan federal advocacy organization working to ensure all children from birth through age five have equal access to affordable, comprehensive, high-quality care and education to support their healthy development and help them achieve their full potential in school and life. FFYF seeks to expand federal support for all early learning and care opportunities that are high-quality and focused first on serving those children most-at-risk. http://www.ffyf.org