Healing the wounded economy: Large majorities of Americans support government action to create jobs; help workers, businesses

January 12, 2021

A national survey of Americans finds…

  • Large majorities of Americans who support both major political parties support government spending on infrastructure projects, aid to small businesses, and temporary community service jobs and paid family leave.
  • Government spending on infrastructure projects is the most popular policy option among Americans (94%). Temporary financial assistance to small businesses (89%), funding temporary community service jobs (85%), and giving workers access to paid family leave (82%) also garner significant support.
  • Large majorities support aid to state and local governments to avert layoffs of essential workers (86%), extending Unemployment Insurance benefits (79%), and paying for education and job training (74%). A majority of both Democrats and Republicans support these policies.
  • One in two Americans believe that the government is primarily responsible for helping laid-off workers — the largest percentage of Americans holding that view since the Great Recession.

The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development’s December 2020 Work Trends survey, Healing the Wounded Economy, explores Americans’ opinions during a deep recession and public health crisis, and on the eve of the inauguration of a new president. The study reports the results from a national sample of over 800 respondents in a general population survey conducted between December 4 and 14, 2020 and has a sampling error of +/- 3.77%. The report also compares findings from the post-election survey with a pre-election survey conducted between October 21 and November 1, 2020 and with previous Heldrich Center surveys conducted during and after the Great Recession.

The post-election national survey finds that Americans are eager for the government to take action to ease the economic pain of the recession brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also finds striking agreement from large majorities of Americans who support both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Professor Carl Van Horn, Director of both the Heldrich Center and the Work Trends project, commented, “Despite the deep divisions on who should lead the nation, there is overwhelming support for policy actions to help workers and heal the economy.”

Among other findings of the Rutgers University-based survey are:

  • When comparing the Heldrich Center’s pre-election survey of Americans with its post-election survey, there were no meaningful differences in opinion by Democrats or Republicans on policy options tested in both surveys, including extending Unemployment Insurance, creating community service jobs, and paying for education/training for laid-off workers or in their confidence in Joe Biden to manage the economy.
  • Americans who support the Democratic and Republicans parties say that cooperation to strengthen the economy is very important, but most doubt that will happen.
  • Democrats are somewhat confident that President-elect Biden’s policies will lower the unemployment rate, create jobs, and boost the stock market. Republicans have lower expectations.

The report with methodological statement is available at https://bit.ly/3bmDbmj

The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development is based at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. It is one of the nation’s leading university-based research and policy centers dedicated to raising the effectiveness of the American workplace through improved workforce education, placement, and training. The center identifies innovative workforce practices and practical policy changes that can help Americans receive the education and training they need to be productive and prosperous in a global knowledge economy. Learn more at www.heldrich.rutgers.edu.

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