Mar 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy
Axios Vibes

Axios Vibes: Huge bipartisan support among students for government loan help

Share who say the government should have some responsibility to help pay student loans
Data: The Harris Poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Huge majorities of students in both parties say the government should do more to help them pay off their student loans, a new Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll finds.

Why it matters: Among all adults, party ID drives deep differences of opinion on this question. But the gap all but disappears among U.S. students currently enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional institutions.

  • 89% of Democratic students surveyed — and 81% of Republicans — said the government should offer some relief, according to the poll of 4,168 U.S. adults.
  • Compare that with the general population: 76% of Democrats — but only 62% of independents and 47% of Republicans — say the government should help.

🤯 Axios Vibe Check: The trends could spell trouble for President Biden as he tries to turn out younger voters in November.

  • So far, the steps he's taken to erase billions of dollars of student debt have yet to lock in enthusiasm from younger voters. Some complain he hasn't done enough. Others are frustrated with his support for Israel.
  • "Biden's popular student loan program was struck down, but the genie is out of the bottle. ... In courting young voters, taking things away is not usually a good campaign strategy," said Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema.

The big picture: Despite divisions among Americans over how to deal with student loan debts, the survey found broad agreement on government help with future borrowing.

  • Four in five Americans support the idea of the government making student loans available at 0% or near-zero interest rates.

But there's a 22-point gap — 84% of students vs. just 62% of the general population — among those who feel the government should have some responsibility to help pay off student loans. That difference is driven by Republicans who aren't in school.

  • 76% of Americans of color, but only 57% of white Americans, say the government should help.

What we're watching: Americans overall were split 50-50 over whether getting a college education today is worth it. 58% said it isn't as worthwhile financially as it was 20 years ago.

  • Democrats were more likely to see college as more necessary than Republicans (56% vs. 45%).

Among students, 31% feared their future earnings potential wouldn't be worth the time and money spent on school. 69% said the costs will pay off.

  • 73% of students from urban areas and 69% from the suburbs — but just 54% from rural areas — said it was worth the time and cost.
  • That tracks with a partisan gap — 76% of Democratic students v. 59% of Republican students.

Methodology: The findings in this Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll are based on a nationally representative sample of 4,168 U.S. adults conducted online, Feb. 16-25, 2024.

  • Of those, 643 were enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate or professional higher education program.
  • The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the data for the overall population is accurate to within +/- 2.0 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. The data for the subset is accurate to within ± 4.8 percentage points.
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