Americans Agree: Congress Should Invest in Children & Youth

December 4, 2014

While media analysts and pundits continue to debate what the mid-term election results mean now and for the next Congress, many of us who care about the well-being of children and youth are focused on a different set of numbers.  

CLC report

This fall, the Children’s Leadership Council (CLC) released a public opinion poll that found overwhelming support for increasing strategic investments in services for children and young people.  Across party lines, 79 percent of Americans favor investing more in programs and services for children and youth. 

A solid majority of Republicans (59 percent) join with overwhelming majorities of independents (82 percent) and Democrats (93 percent) in calling on Congress to make children’s programs and services a higher budget priority.  In fact, 61 percent of Americans believe children would be better off if government did more for children rather than “got out of the way.”

Hart Research Associates, a strategic research firm, conducted telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 800 Americans age 18 and older. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

By a very strong 18-point margin, Americans say that investing more in children’s health, education & well-being (54 percent) should be a higher priority than reducing taxes (36 percent). CLC poll, 2014

While these numbers may surprise some, they don’t surprise those of us who work in support of our nation’s babies, children and young adults. We know that Americans want our government to work—and to work for everyone.

We also know that children and young people are still struggling as our nation recovers from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly one in five children and young adults live in poverty, according to the latest Census data, and nearly two in five children are in “low-income” families, defined as earning a total income of about $37,500 for a family of four. Many of their parents haven’t seen a salary adjustment in years, and wealth and income inequality are at near-record highs.

At the same time, unemployment ratestop 14 percent for youth and young adults ages 16 to 24, more than twice the national average.  Underemployment and unprecedented student loan debt are further limiting young people‘s ability to get on a pathway to a promising adulthood.

Let’s be clear: the solutions to these and other problems we face will depend on all sectors. Elected officials must do more to improve the lives of our next generation. The path forward is not a mystery. We have decades of evidence about what works to help children and young people of all backgrounds thrive. We just need our elected officials to make sensible policy improvements and support what we know works.

Think it can’t be done in this divisive political climate? Think again. Congress has managed some bipartisan successes in recent years: including stopping the budget sequester with the Murray-Ryan deal, reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECV) and updating the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG)for the first time since 1996.

What You Can Do: Speak Up and Put This Data to Work! 

In this window between November’s mid-term elections and the 2016 race, it’s time for Congress to focus on governing—including making smart decisions that will improve the lives of children and youth.

For advocates, now is the time for us to speak up and make sure that those elected to represent us are following our priorities. Congress has a lot of work to do before adjourning in the next few weeks, not the least of which is passing fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bills that fund important federal government programs and services, including child care and early education, and family violence prevention and child safety programs. 

This December

Let’s use this public opinion information to encourage our members of Congress to fund effective and critical services that help babies, toddlers, children and youth. 

Act Now

Got 5 minutes? Use your Zip Code and reach your policymakers right now!


In January, when the 114th Congress convenes, we can use these results to remind our elected representatives about the strong support American’s have for investing in the next generation. And that we’ll be watching.  

To make this easy, the CLC will create and share action alerts to help all interested adults and young people contact members of the new Congress. 

Learn More

  • Check out the nonpartisan poll resultsfrom the Children’s Leadership Council (includes sharable images and social media posts).

Randi Schmidt is the Executive Director of Children’s Leadership Council, a nonpartisan coalition of nearly 60 leading child and youth advocacy organizations. Caitlin Johnson is Co-Founder and Managing Director of SparkAction and the Communications Chair of the Children’s Leadership Council. 

Randi Schmidt, Caitlin Johnson