A Majority Want Healthcare and Education Programs to Be High Priorities for the Spending Bill

Americans are closely divided over the preferred approach to government: 52% want a bigger government providing more services and 47% favor a smaller government delivering fewer services.

October 28, 2021

As Democrats continue to debate the spending package and its social policy spending, most Americans agree funding for health care and education programs should be high priorities, while fewer say climate change, childcare, or paid family leave should have much importance.  Americans are closely divided over the preferred approach to government. Fifty-two percent want a bigger government providing more services, while 47% favor a smaller government delivering fewer services.

Thirty-six percent approve of how President Biden is handling negotiations of the spending bill and 41% disapprove. Similarly, 30% have a positive view of how Congressional Democrats are dealing with the spending bill and 44% disapprove.  There is less approval for the conduct of Congressional Republicans:  18% approve and 49% disapprove. 

At least 70% of Democrats say healthcare, education, and climate change should get high priority in the trillion-dollar spending package that would fund new and expanded government programs. Fifty-four percent think childcare should also get high priority.  However, only 36% give a high priority to paid family leave. 

In comparison, about 4 in 10 Republicans think healthcare (41%) and education (41%) should get high priority in the spending bill, but few say the same about including increased funding for childcare (23%), climate change (19%), or paid family leave (15%) in the legislation.

While the public is closely divided over whether small government with fewer services is preferable to a larger government with more services, a large majority of Democrats would rather have a bigger government providing more services and a large majority of Republicans feel the opposite, preferring a smaller government with fewer services. 

In a 2013 survey conducted by The Associated Press and GfK, 60% favored a small government and 35% wanted a bigger government. 

Democrats have a positive view of how both the president and Democrats in Congress are handling negotiations surrounding the spending bill. While Republicans do not approve of how Biden or Congressional Democrats are dealing with negotiations, they are not favorable about how Republicans in Congress are handling them either.  

Overall, 48% of Americans approve of how Biden is handling his job, not significantly different from September when 50% approved.  However, in September 47% approved of his stewardship of the economy and in the latest poll, that has dropped to 41%.  In July, 57% approved of the president handling of health care; now 50% approve.  

Views of the overall direction of country continue to drop.  Overall, 32% say things are heading in the right direction, while 67% think the country is going in the wrong direction.  While most Democrats still say the country is heading in the right direction, the number has been dropping since April. 

The public has also become less optimistic about the state of the country over the next year.  Nearly half, 48%, think the way things are going in the country will get worse, while 26% expect to see things improve and 24% say they will stay about the same.  In February, 43% of the public thought the way things are going in the country would get better, 34% said they would get worse and 23% thought things would stay about the same. 

The nationwide poll was conducted October 21-25, 2021 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,083 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.0 percentage points.

  • Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  (October 2021).“A Majority Want Healthcare and Education Programs to Be High Priorities for the Spending Bill” [apnorc.org/projects/a-majority-want-healthcare-and-education-programs-to-be-high-priorities-for-the-spending-bill]

Resources

Article

Biden, Dems get low marks on spending talks: AP-NORC poll

Kevin Frank and Hannah Fingerhut | the Associated Press October 28, 2021 WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden and Democrats try to get a roughly $1.75 trillion package over the finish…

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