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Washington D.C. – A poll released today reveals strong public support for protecting federal investments that benefit children. In a battery of survey questions identifying a series of potential cuts that Congress may consider in the broader budget debate, the survey finds that voters are more likely to hold harmless programs affecting kids than any other programs on the chopping block.

Furthermore, results from the survey reveal cuts to programs affecting kids prove just as unpopular as cuts affecting seniors. In fact, voters are as likely to oppose reductions in Medicaid as in Medicare. Voters also are more concerned about protecting children’s programs than a variety of other federal programs, such as transportation funding for highway construction, national defense, and medical and scientific research.

“The American people are sending a message that is loud and clear: don’t cut kids,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, the bipartisan child advocacy organization that commissioned the survey. “Many recent spending proposals have sacrificed the needs of children in order to protect the interests of others. However, results from this survey prove that protecting programs that improve the well-being of children is immensely important to voters. We urge policymakers to heed the priorities of their constituents by holding children harmless as they work to find solutions to our nation’s budget challenges.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Voters believe children in America fare poorly. By a margin of 58-20 percent, or by almost a 3:1 margin, a majority of voters believe that the lives of children in America have gotten worse rather than better in the last ten years, including a quarter (26 percent) who believe children’s lives have gotten much worse. Republican voters are the most concerned, as they believe the lives of children are worse by a margin of 62-16 percent, an almost 4:1 margin.
  • Children’s programs are most important to voters relative to other potential program cuts. When provided a battery of potential cuts some have considered in the budget debate, voters clearly protect children. In fact, the least popular cuts all directly affect children, including cuts to federal child nutrition programs, Head Start, k-12 education, CHIP, among others. When asked whether the following programs should receive no reduction, a minor reduction, or a major reduction, American voters responded as follows (see Figure 1).
  • Voters strongly oppose the more than $750 billion in proposed cuts to Medicaid and funding shortfall created in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) included in the House Budget Committee proposal. By a 70-27 percent margin, the majority of American voters oppose the cuts to Medicaid and, by a 73-23 percent margin, Americans oppose the proposed cuts to CHIP (51 percent strongly oppose). This includes opposition to the Medicaid and CHIP cuts by margins of 66-30 percent and 67-26 percent, respectively, in Republican congressional districts. Voters also oppose, by a 2:1 margin, a plan to provide governors more flexibility if it meant eliminating insurance coverage for some children (31 percent favor, 63 percent oppose).
  • Cutting programs is not the only option. Voters support other options for reducing the deficit. A 72 percent majority describe eliminating loopholes and federal subsidies to corporations as acceptable, 63 percent accept eliminating the Bush tax cuts for families earning over $250,000 a year, and 64 percent oppose the Ryan plan to lower the top tax bracket by a third. Furthermore, when presented with a range of suggestions for dealing with the deficit, voters support raising taxes on those earning over $1 million a year rather than cutting important programs by a 72-21 percent margin.
  • When provided context, voters oppose the House Budget Committee proposal. Less than half of voters (45 percent) support a “proposed budget for the next 10 years that will cut 6.2 trillion from the federal budget deficit.” When provided a fuller and fair description of the details of the plan, support sinks, 37 percent favor, 56 percent oppose.

The telephone survey, completed during the period of April 13-18, 2011, was commissioned by First Focus and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, using a national probability sample of 1,023 likely 2012 voters. In order to better reflect the changing lifestyle of the voting population, the survey also includes a sample of 114 cell phone interviews. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.10 points at 95 percent confidence interval.