This is part of a series of assessments of Americans’ priorities for the new administration on a variety of pressing issues in the political, political and commercial spaces. See our other work analyzing voter preferences on health care, the environment, economy, finance and the general governance approach, as well as how marketers can seek to flourish in an increasingly divided political landscape.
President-elect Joe Biden inherits an indebted electorate. Unlike his last term in the federal government, a large chunk of that debt is in student loans, and how to tackle it will be one of the most important economic policy issues his administration will face over the course of over the next four years.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, student loans have grown more than any other type of consumer debt, reaching nearly $ 1.6 trillion. Defaults for student loans are also much higher than for other types of loans, and unlike other debts, borrowers cannot live without them even if they go bankrupt.
Not only is this a problem for borrowers, but supporters of student loan cancellation argued that policies to ease the burden of student debt would help the economy as a whole. During his campaign, Biden said he would sign a law canceling $ 10,000 in student debt for borrowers who earn less than $ 125,000 a year. And as his inauguration approached, the first concrete pledge Biden made for his new government centered on student loans – a transition official said on “day one,” the president-elect would ask the ministry of education. ‘Education to extend the break on federal student loan payments.
So far, Biden’s $ 10,000 proposal, along with the idea of student debt relief, has proven popular with the public, according to a new Morning Consult. survey.
Thirty-four percent of adults said they “strongly” support the plan Biden endorsed during his campaign. Another 22 percent said they supported the plan “somewhat”, while 31 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed it.
Support levels were higher among Democrats, with half saying they strongly supported the plan and 24% saying they supported it somewhat. Only 15 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed Biden’s student debt relief plan.
Support among Republicans was significantly lower: 35 percent said they support the plan, while 54 percent said they oppose it.
The independents are more oriented towards supporting the student debt relief plan at 52 percent against 27 percent who oppose it.
But fulfilling the more opaque pledge to tackle student debt could be a tricky political prospect. With an unexpectedly divided Senate, embracing some form of long-term relief is suddenly a more realistic possibility, and Biden will likely have to balance calls from progressives in his party to seek more ambitious levels of forgiveness, with the caution of moderates.
Progressives in Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) And Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), have argued for high levels of debt forgiveness, up to $ 50,000 per borrower – probably higher than Biden. want to continue. Others, meanwhile, argued that canceling the student loan would be an expensive bailout for some people, especially the rich and well educated.
Compared to Biden’s plan, progressive lawmakers’ proposal for relief of up to $ 50,000 per borrower has received less public support. Overall, 28 percent said they strongly supported the $ 50,000 plan and 18 percent said they supported it somewhat. Thirty-nine percent said they opposed the proposed $ 50,000 relief.
Divisive party trends were similar for the more ambitious student debt relief plan: a total of 64% of Democrats support cancellation of student debt up to $ 50,000 per borrower, compared to 27% of Republicans and 41% of the self-employed.
There could be an argument, however, that critics of student debt relief resonate with Americans.
More than half (52%) said they somewhat or strongly agreed that student debt relief would go a long way to help those who are already better off economically, including 47% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans . Forty-eight percent of adults disagreed with this statement.
A larger proportion believed that student debt relief would provide broader economic benefits. Sixty-five percent said canceling some student debt would improve the economy, compared to 35 percent who disagreed with the idea.