Eighty-Eight Percent of Voters Say Candidates Should Focus on Poverty

Jan 23, 2012

By Jillian Holzer

Now that we're officially in the 2012 election cycle, candidates for office may want to take note of a new poll on voter attitudes toward poverty and opportunity. According to a survey commissioned by CLASP-managed Spotlight on Poverty, an astounding 88 percent of voters think a candidate's position on poverty is important in deciding their vote.  With the economy still weak, many families have experienced increased hardship and struggle every day over how to pay for basic necessities such as utility bills and food. Conducted by McLaughlin and Associates in November, the survey polled 1,000 likely voters. Its key findings:

  • Voters strongly said candidates' views on poverty are important in deciding their vote for president. Forty-five percent said poverty is "very important" for their vote, and 42 percent said it's "somewhat" important. Only 10 percent said poverty wasn't important at all.
  • Forty-nine percent of voters said they have not heard enough from presidential candidates about reducing poverty. In 2011, 48 percent of Independents, 41 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats said they have not heard enough from candidates on reducing poverty.

  • Half of likely voters said that the media has not adequately addressed the issue of poverty reduction during the presidential election.
  • When asked, "How important is a candidate's position on protecting equal opportunity for all children, no matter their race or ethnicity, in deciding your vote for president?" 88 percent of participants said a candidate's position on equal opportunity is important.

  • Voters tended to say children of all races do not currently have equal access to opportunity.

The polling data is important for a couple reasons. It may suggest that voters understand government policies impact poverty and have the ability to reduce it. Policies that expand access to education and promote opportunity can make real differences in lifting people out of poverty and improving family and community well-being. The data may also suggest that voters are looking for short- and long-term solutions to the economic crisis, and are frustrated by rising economic inequality.

Election years are opportunities to reevaluate the state of the country and reflect on the kind of nation we want to be. The unfortunate reality is that 46.2 million people, including 15.7 million children, live in poverty. Unemployment remains staggeringly high at 8.5 percent.  And millions are just one paycheck away from poverty. This recent poll demonstrates that policymakers must catch up with voters and recognize the need to discuss and address poverty in real ways. It demonstrates that voters want policies that expand opportunity for children and families. And it demonstrates that everyday people understand how much the nation's future hangs on improving the economic well-being of all our citizens and families.


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