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The First Five Questions For: Polling Experts Jay Campbell and Lori Weigel

News May 23, 2024

In this month’s FFYF’s First Five Questions series – which brings together interesting leaders, experts, and voices together to talk about child care challenges and solutions – Executive Director Sarah Rittling sat down with Jay Campbell (Hart Research) and Lori Weigel (New Bridge Strategies), the nationally acclaimed bipartisan polling team behind FFYF’s new poll on child care and the 2024 election

Campbell and Weigel both provided insider input on voter focus going into the 2024 election, and the implications that child care has for candidates and lawmakers ahead of November. 

Check out the video below and read the Q&A* here. 

Welcome to our First Five Questions Series, our monthly video series, which brings interesting leaders and voices together to talk about child care through the lens of their own experience or expertise.

I’m Sarah Ritling, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an organization that focuses on building support for federal policies that strengthen child care and early learning programs so more families can find and afford the quality care they need.

  Today, I’m thrilled to be joined by 2 guests who are trusted experts in public opinion, and have gained national acclaim for their research efforts on campaigns with candidates and on critical issues across the country.

They’re also the bipartisan polling team behind our new poll about child care and the 2024 election.

 This poll demonstrates that not only do voters want Congress to do more to address child care challenges today, they also want future lawmakers to have a plan for addressing child care challenges tomorrow.

We found that voters understand the direct connection child care challenges have on the economy and the benefit quality care has on our little ones.

But enough from me. I’ll let you hear from the polling experts that are helping to highlight voter’s thoughts and much more – Jay Campbell from Hart Research and Lori Weigel from New Bridge Strategies. Welcome Jay and Lori.


Jay, we’re going to start with you.

You’re polling on so many issues Right now, I’d love to hear broadly what you’re learning about the electorate in general.

Jay Campbell (Hart Research): Well, broadly: America is not in a particularly great spot right now. People feel like things are not headed in the right direction. The cost of living and inflation is weighing people down in a way that it has not in many decades. 

People are worried about their rights. They’re worried about the public discourse, and there’s really – and I would be curious if Lori has heard this, too – a dislike of the animus and the division in the country, even though the division comes from the people itself. People are also kind of tired of it, and they’re looking for reasons to come together and they’re looking for people to work together and move the country forward.

And I think that in many ways, that’s the most unifying thing that we see in the public right now. This tiredness around polarization and division.

Rittling: Lori?

Lori Weigel (New Bridge Strategy): Yeah, I’d say people are negative, but they’re all coming at it from such different perspectives that their negativity can be based on wholly different rationals and reasons. So it’s really interesting. We did not just survey, but we sat down and talked to voters in some really different places on your behalf. There’s places that are sort of stagnating, and people are upset about that.

Then we go to some places like the Phoenix metro area. It’s booming. People are upset about growth. And you know, newcomers coming in and housing prices going up. So we’re just seeing a lot of negativity.

I would highlight, because it has ramifications for child care, the cost of living. It clearly continues to be highly top tier. And this sense that all the fundamentals about the economy are okay right now. But people, I think it was 63% in a recent national poll said, their income is not keeping pace with the increasing prices. So it’s really creating this difficulty where people feel like they’re falling behind constantly.

Rittling: We, as you all know, think it’s so important to understand the context within which we’re working. So it’s really helpful to hear. And we value that so much. 


Rittling: Jay, this is for you. If you were a candidate running for office from either party. What would you really pay attention to from the poll that you just conducted for us?

Campbell: Well, I think that’s an interesting question. And it actually connects back in a couple of different ways to what Lori and I just answered.

If I’m a candidate, I’m paying attention to the degree to which this issue of child care does bridge barriers between people.

Across the public people recognize that child care is essential and that it plays an incredibly important role in the economy and allowing people to work. 

There’s wide support for making it more available and more affordable, while improving or maintaining quality. 

The reason this is important for candidates is because if we’re trying to look for ways to appeal to a broad swath of the public, this is one way in which to do it. 

It gets summed up in the number 85%. This is a big number, and that’s the percentage of people who say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who got behind a particular child care proposal that we put forward in the survey: that expands access and addresses affordability.

 When you have 85% of people saying the same thing in a survey, that means that pretty much everybody feels that way across age groups, across partisan groups, independent people in the suburbs, people in the cities and in rural areas. That level of agreement and unification is kind of rare right now. So that’s something that I would stand up and pay attention to, for sure.

Rittling: Thanks, Jay. 


We’re gonna turn to you, Lori, and talk about focus groups. You are a master class in conducting focus groups. I would travel all over the country and watch. It’s just incredible what you’re able to do and command in the room. But you’ve run a number of child care themed focus groups for us in the past. And you recently just did three  more.

Anything that jumps out at you as different this time around, compared to previous times? 

Weigel: Yeah, I think picking up on what Jay talked about in those big numbers we saw in the survey. There were fundamental rationals for why people come to those conclusions and the focus groups really illuminated in a very enlightening way just how people are approaching that. And there’s a few things that are different today than they have been in the past. 

First of all, when people think about government spending and funding, they think there’s way too much of that. So why, at the same time, would they say: Oh, this [child care] is a good thing to spend money on. 

Well, first of all, they think it’s better than a lot of other things the government is spending money on. Mostly that has to do with wars overseas and some things like that. That really crosses partisan lines.

But there’s also this feeling now that hasn’t been the case in the past. It was really prominent how many times people were telling us: “Well, but this would help the middle class, and we’re struggling” in a way that we didn’t hear pre-pandemic, or even during the pandemic so much.

 I think the other thing is a recognition out there that not all the kids are okay today, and that this would have broader societal impacts. So a lot of times on public policy issues, we listen to people talk and they’re coming at it from a purely selfish standpoint.

How does this work for me? What do I get out of this public policy? And people are actually saying there’s some societal benefits that are more important than how this personally affects me right now, and whether or not I have kids in this age group, or whether I have kids at all. 

So I think people are coming at the issues of child care and early learning from a very different perspective than they have in the past.

Rittling: That really stood out for me as well. And that’s helpful. 


We’re gonna turn to you, Jay. There’s sometimes this myth that the child care messages only resonate with parents, or even more specifically, with moms or moms with young children.

 I would argue, and hopefully, you would as well, that the poll turned this on its head a little. What did we find?

 Campbell: I would take serious issue with it, in fact. Sarah, and you know it’s a fallacy and it has been for a long time that this is an issue that people without kids don’t really care about. Really we’ve never found that to be the case. 

And this poll, as much as any that we’ve seen, does sort of turn it on its head. 

79% of people who don’t have kids say that high quality child care is essential for the economy and for workers. 

That’s again, a lot of people. 74% of men who don’t have kids. This is not a population of people who are, to your point, typically seen as being focused on children’s issues of any kind, let alone early childhood issues. 

But 3 out of 4 men who don’t have kids in the household say that they recognize child care as being essential or very important for the economy.

Two thirds of people who don’t have kids support that federal child care proposal,as do 60% of seniors. You know that’s sort of another fallacy,that seniors don’t care about issues beyond social security or health care or Medicare that don’t affect them. Not true at all.

When you have 60% of seniors supporting a pretty major federal investment in young children, I think that that’s a pretty important note to have in mind. 

Going back to that voting issue: I mentioned seniors are pretty well known for being regular voters, and 79% of seniors say that they would vote for a candidate who gets behind that federal investment of child care. So really, this sort of notion that you have to have kids to care about child care is just completely false. Poll after poll, including this one show that’s the case


We’ve reached our conclusion here on our question, so we’re going tp turn this to both of you. 

Lori, we joke that we sometimes think of the best poll questions the day after the poll was in the field. So what’s one thing you’d ask next time that we didn’t?  

Weigel: I think something that we heard in the focus groups, but it’s harder to demonstrate a survey. Maybe we just didn’t tackle it because we had so many other fun questions to ask.

I tend to find public policy issues convey values. We did ask, “What do you want a candidate to do?”

But not, “What does it say to you about a candidate if he or she supports investing in child care. What does it say to you if they oppose it?” 

I think that that is something that if I were someone who engages in electoral politics, I would be curious to find out, especially if my candidate was firmly on one side or the other of this issue. 

I definitely think that being able to elicit and understand more about how people perceive those issue positions would be incredibly important as we move forward.

Rittling: Jay. Anything you want to add?

Campbell: I wish I had an equally intelligent creative answer. But I’m just gonna associate myself with Lori’s idea here.

Values are key to what we do as political professionals. And you know, you could sort of take that a step further, and even say: Not only how do people associate the values of a candidate, but what did they think about us as a country that we have not had this focus on very young children the way many countries have and do. 

What does it say about us that there are waiting lists for child care so that people can work? And I think that this is all wrapped up in our values as Americans, and how people kind of view what we should be doing and what government should be doing. 

That’s sort of the ultimate value. We have questions about what is the role of government? And is this part of the role of government? Based on the data we’ve seen, I think that a lot of people think this is government’s role, and this is something government should be doing. But we did not ask that, so we couldn’t say for sure.

Rittling: Well, thank you both. You’re always so generous with your time and more importantly, with your big brains. We know you’re in the height of election season. So we appreciate it. And we look forward to continuing our work together and we’re really happy you’re able to share some of this with our audience. 

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