CONGRESS

Key Groups Support Student Loans, VAWA

In this Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 photo, students walk through the campus of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. When US News & World Report debuted its list of "America's Best Colleges" nearly 30 years ago, the magazine hoped its college rankings would be a game-changer for students and families. Arguably, they've had a much bigger effect on colleges themselves. A senior administrator at Claremont McKenna, a highly regarded California liberal arts college, resigned after acknowledging he falsified college entrance exam scores for years to rankings publications such as US News. The scale was small: submitting scores just 10 or 20 points higher on the 1600-point SAT math and reading exams. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)  
National Journal
Steven Shepard
May 7, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats have spent much of this spring cri­ti­ciz­ing Hill Re­pub­lic­ans for what they say is the GOP’s op­pos­i­tion to le­gis­lat­ive ini­ti­at­ives in­clud­ing the Vi­ol­ence Against Wo­men Act, stu­dent-loan sub­sidies, and the Paycheck Fair­ness Act. A new United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll shows that Demo­crats en­joy pop­u­lar sup­port for these ef­forts, par­tic­u­larly from fe­male and young­er Amer­ic­ans, among whom the party seeks to en­rich its elect­or­al ad­vant­ages head­ing in­to Novem­ber.

The poll shows that Amer­ic­ans largely fa­vor the Demo­crats’ po­s­i­tions on these is­sues: Ma­jor­it­ies fa­vor pro­vi­sions pro­tect­ing gay and les­bi­an vic­tims of do­mest­ic vi­ol­ence and mak­ing it easi­er for wo­men to sue for wage dis­crim­in­a­tion. A plur­al­ity prefers Demo­crats’ plans to pay for stu­dent-loan sub­sidies by rais­ing taxes on some busi­nesses, as op­posed to Re­pub­lic­ans’ plans to shift money from a pre­vent­at­ive-health fund cre­ated as part of the 2010 health care law. On all three is­sues, Demo­crats en­joy wider ad­vant­ages among wo­men and young Amer­ic­ans.

This United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 999 adults from May 3-6. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of +/- 3.6 per­cent­age points.

The poll is the latest in a series of na­tion­al sur­veys that track the pub­lic’s pri­or­it­ies for Con­gress””and its as­sess­ment of Wash­ing­ton’s per­form­ance””dur­ing most weeks that Con­gress is in ses­sion dur­ing this elec­tion year.

The Demo­crat­ic-led Sen­ate passed the reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the Vi­ol­ence Against Wo­men Act last month, and the bill is cur­rently pending be­fore the House. The poll tested three pro­vi­sions that were ad­ded to the le­gis­la­tion, find­ing vary­ing de­grees of sup­port.

Sixty-two per­cent of re­spond­ents sup­port “in­clud­ing gays and les­bi­ans in the group that is pro­tec­ted un­der this law,” com­pared with only 30 per­cent who are op­posed to that ad­di­tion. Among wo­men, 67 per­cent sup­port ex­pand­ing the law to cov­er gays and les­bi­ans, as do 77 per­cent of re­spond­ents ages 18-29 and 69 per­cent of those 18-49.

Fifty-eight per­cent also sup­port “ex­pand­ing the au­thor­ity of Nat­ive Amer­ic­an of­fi­cials to handle ab­use cases of In­di­an wo­men by non-In­di­ans.” Once again, sup­port runs high­er among wo­men and young adults.

A pro­vi­sion “in­creas­ing the num­ber of visas gran­ted to ab­used leg­al and il­leg­al im­mig­rants from 10,000 to 15,000” fails to gain pop­u­lar back­ing, however: 42 per­cent sup­port it, while 47 per­cent op­pose it. Fifty-two per­cent of adults un­der age 50 sup­port the pro­vi­sion, but only a third of those 50 and older sup­port it. Just 43 per­cent of wo­men sup­port that ad­di­tion, but, among adults un­der age 50, wo­men (55 per­cent) are more likely to sup­port it than men (49 per­cent).

Mean­while, the poll also ques­tioned re­spond­ents about the parties’ po­s­i­tions on two is­sues cur­rently be­fore Con­gress. Both parties fa­vor ex­tend­ing sub­sidies that al­low col­lege stu­dents to con­tin­ue re­ceiv­ing loans at lower rates, but they dis­agree on how to pay for it.

In­ter­view­ers told poll re­spond­ents that Demo­crats “want to raise taxes on some busi­nesses” while Re­pub­lic­ans “want to shift money from a pre­vent­at­ive health fund that was cre­ated as part of the pres­id­ent’s health care plan.”

Fully half of re­spond­ents said they fa­vor Demo­crats’ plans to pay for these stu­dent loans, while only 34 per­cent favored the GOP’s ap­proach. El­ev­en per­cent vo­lun­teered that they favored neither plan or an­oth­er plan, and 5 per­cent did not know or re­fused to an­swer the ques­tion. Among young adults, sup­port for the Demo­crat­ic plan ran strong. Fifty-eight per­cent of those aged 18-29 favored the Demo­crats’ ap­proach, com­pared with just 28 per­cent who pre­ferred the Re­pub­lic­an plan. Wo­men were also more likely to choose the Demo­crat­ic stu­dent-loan pay-for, 53 per­cent to 30 per­cent. The gender gap was even more strik­ing among white Amer­ic­ans: White men pre­ferred the GOP plan, 43 per­cent to 38 per­cent, but white wo­men chose the Demo­crat­ic plan, 50 per­cent to 32 per­cent.

Pres­id­ent Obama last week traveled to col­lege cam­puses in the battle­ground states of North Car­o­lina, Col­or­ado, and Iowa to push for these stu­dent-loan sub­sidies, look­ing to boost en­thu­si­asm among young­er sup­port­ers. The GOP-led House last month ap­proved a bill ex­tend­ing the loan sub­sidy, but House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi de­cried the bill as an “as­sault on wo­men’s health.” The Sen­ate was set to take up its own ver­sion of the bill on Monday.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are also plan­ning to in­tro­duce the Paycheck Fair­ness Act, which would, poll re­spond­ents were told, “make it easi­er for wo­men to sue for wage dis­crim­in­a­tion.” Demo­crats “say the bill would pro­mote fair­ness in the work­place,” poll in­ter­view­ers said, while Re­pub­lic­ans “say it would en­cour­age too many un­jus­ti­fied law­suits.”

Asked whom they were more likely to trust on this is­sue, 52 per­cent chose Demo­crats, while 36 per­cent picked Re­pub­lic­ans. Twelve per­cent said they trus­ted neither party or an­oth­er party, did not know, or re­fused to an­swer the ques­tion.

Men were split on the ques­tion””44 per­cent trust Demo­crats, 43 per­cent Re­pub­lic­ans””but wo­men lean heav­ily to­ward the Demo­crat­ic Party. Fifty-nine per­cent of wo­men said they trus­ted Demo­crats more on this is­sue, and just 29 per­cent trust Re­pub­lic­ans more. The gender gap is wider among whites: Re­pub­lic­ans lead among white men on this is­sue, 50 per­cent to 35 per­cent, but white wo­men trust Demo­crats more, 55 per­cent to 32 per­cent.

Young­er voters also leaned heav­ily to­ward Demo­crats, with 62 per­cent say­ing they trus­ted them more on this is­sue, com­pared with only 31 per­cent for the GOP. Among those 50 or older, 51 per­cent trust Demo­crats more, and 37 per­cent trust Re­pub­lic­ans.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id re­portedly plans to in­tro­duce the bill in the com­ing weeks, des­pite the fact that Re­pub­lic­ans de­feated the meas­ure in un­an­im­ous op­pos­i­tion in the 2010 lame-duck ses­sion.

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