Student loan forgiveness divides Americans more by party and age than by education
A majority of Democrats (56%) — and an even wider majority of self-described liberals (69%) — say the government is doing too little on student loan debt, according to the CNN poll, while only a third of Republicans and self-described conservatives alike say the same. Seventy percent of adults younger than 35 say the government is doing too little, a figure that drops to 50% among those in the 35-49 age bracket, and 35% among those age 50 or older.
There are also racial and income-based divides: Six in 10 of people of color say the government is doing too little, compared with 42% of White Americans who say the same. And 57% of those in households making less than $50,000 annually want to see more government action, compared with 42% in higher-earning households.
By contrast, however, there’s little divide between college graduates and those without a degree: 50% of Americans without a college degree say the government should take more action on student loan debt, as do 47% of college graduates.
Roughly half of young Democrats (48%) said the government should cancel all student loan debt, with 77% saying the government should cancel debt for at least some Americans; among young Republicans, 20% favored canceling all student loan debt, and 35% thought at least some debts should be canceled.
Half of young Black Americans supported fully canceling student loan debts, compared with 43% of Hispanic young adults, 38% of young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and 33% of White young adults. There was again relatively little difference between current college students (41% of whom said all student loan debt should be canceled), college graduates (39% of whom said that) and those who neither held a degree nor were currently enrolled (36%).
The Harvard poll also found that when asked about the national issue that concerned them the most, just 1% of young adults mentioned education costs or student debt — 19%, by contrast, mentioned inflation or the economy as a whole.
While surveys provide a fairly clear picture on how Americans divide over student loan policy, they’re less consistent in the level of overall support they find for government action. There’s a good reason for that — the way pollsters present the issue also varies widely. Some surveys, for instance, ask about support or opposition for a specific plan, while others lay out a range of possible options.
Taken together, those numbers suggest that, with the scale and scope of government action on student loan debt still unknown, public opinion toward a hypothetical response remains equally inchoate. There’s a well of potential support for some sort of action on student debt, but less consensus around precisely what form that should take — and significant room for Americans to change their mind, depending both on the details of any policy, and the politics of its rollout.