Cancel student loan debt (all of it)
Cancel student loan debt (all of it)

A major­i­ty of vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton of all ages sup­port for­giv­ing all fed­er­al stu­dent loan debt to lib­er­ate mil­lions of Amer­i­cans from con­tin­u­ing to car­ry a crush­ing, anx­i­ety-induc­ing finan­cial bur­den, accord­ing to our most recent statewide poll.

52% of 700 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI back in Feb­ru­ary 2022 favor debt for­give­ness for all stu­dent loan bor­row­ers, while 44% are opposed. 4% of respon­dents said they were not sure.

“The U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion holds near­ly $1.6 tril­lion in fed­er­al stu­dent loans and more than 45 mil­lion indi­vid­ual bor­row­ers live in the shad­ow of that mas­sive debt,” the Stu­dent Debt Cri­sis Cen­ter not­ed in a March 7th let­ter to Pres­i­dent Joe Biden signed by hun­dreds of orga­ni­za­tions.

“Pay­ments on most of these loans have been paused since March 2020, dur­ing which time inter­est charges have also been sus­pend­ed and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has halt­ed col­lec­tion efforts against most bor­row­ers in default.”

The pause has been sched­uled to end in just a few weeks. Today, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials let it be known that they are work­ing on extend­ing the pause through August 31st. While a fur­ther exten­sion would def­i­nite­ly avert a sud­den fis­cal hard­ship as of the first of May, it won’t solve the under­ly­ing problem.

But per­ma­nent­ly for­giv­ing all of that debt would be liberating.

“I think some folks read these exten­sions as savvy pol­i­tics, but I don’t think those folks under­stand the pan­ic and dis­or­der it caus­es peo­ple to get so close to these dead­lines just to extend the uncer­tain­ty,” not­ed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez. “It doesn’t have the affect peo­ple think it does. We should can­cel them.”

Peo­ple like Jes­si­ca, a young woman in Detroit, are present­ly sad­dled with big debts that are crush­ing them. As Jes­si­ca wrote: “I des­per­ate­ly want to live my poten­tial, to make use of the bless­ing of life after can­cer, but ten years of loan defer­ment has bro­ken me. I see no way of climb­ing out of this hole.”

“The sto­ries here are heart­break­ing. That so many are so pro­found­ly finan­cial­ly crip­pled — for decades! — because they worked to get the edu­ca­tions they’ve been told would help them obtain gain­ful employ­ment, but their promised tra­jec­to­ry was sacked by an Act of God. It’s wrong and it’s sad and needs to end.”

NPI’s research shows that most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans agree with this sentiment.

Here is the ques­tion we asked and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: After tak­ing office, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden paused fed­er­al stu­dent loan repay­ments to man­age the ongo­ing pan­dem­ic and fur­ther strength­en America’s eco­nom­ic recov­ery. The pause is sched­uled to end on May 1st, 2022. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose mak­ing the pause per­ma­nent by for­giv­ing all fed­er­al stu­dent loan debt?


  • Sup­port: 52% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 35%
    • Some­what sup­port: 17%
  • Oppose: 44%
    • Some­what oppose: 9%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 35%
  • Not sure: 4%

Our sur­vey of 700 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 17th through Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 18th, 2022.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.7% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

As you might sus­pect, there’s a big age divide in these answers.

Young vot­ers — a key demo­graph­ic for Joe Biden and Democ­rats — are over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port­ive of for­giv­ing all fed­er­al stu­dent loan debt.

68% of vot­ers between the ages of eigh­teen to twen­ty-nine sup­port for­give­ness (with 57% strong­ly sup­port­ive), while 62% of vot­ers between the ages of thir­ty to forty-five are sup­port­ive. Vot­ers between the ages of forty-six to six­ty-five are split, with 45% sup­port­ive and 49% opposed, while vot­ers old­er than six­ty-five are the least enthu­si­as­tic, with 44% sup­port­ive and 52% opposed.

We also saw a big gen­der divide in these answers. Vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as female were far more sup­port­ive than vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as male. 59% of female vot­ers sup­port for­give­ness, while only 45% of vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as male do.

But the biggest dis­par­i­ty of all was between Democ­rats and Republicans.

Near­ly nine in ten Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers back for­give­ness (88% total, 62% strong­ly), while only 14% of Repub­li­can vot­ers do. Two-thirds of Repub­li­cans strong­ly oppose for­give­ness, and 11% are some­what opposed. Inde­pen­dent vot­ers are more mixed, with 41% sup­port­ive and 56% opposed.

Nation­al-lev­el research indi­cates that there are even high­er lev­els of sup­port for sim­ply con­tin­u­ing the mora­to­ri­um (which is echoed by find­ings from swing states like Wis­con­sin or Ari­zona), but as men­tioned, that’s not a long term solution.

Not only is for­giv­ing stu­dent loan debt a just and respon­si­ble course of action, it’s good pol­i­tics for Democ­rats. The par­ty needs an ener­gized pro­gres­sive base to max­i­mize its chances in the midterms, and tak­ing action to get rid of stu­dent loan debt would deliv­er a nice jolt of ener­gy ahead of the upcom­ing elec­tions for U.S. House and Sen­ate. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray would be wise to take up this cause and join col­leagues like Eliz­a­beth War­ren in urg­ing Pres­i­dent Joe Biden to issue an exec­u­tive order for­giv­ing fed­er­al stu­dent loan debt.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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