AMAC/TRAFALGAR POLL: Large Majorities of Hispanics, Asians, Independents Oppose Biden Debt Cancellation Scheme

Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2022
by Andrew Abbott

AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott

Biden’s student debt cancellation scheme may be a big reason why he and the Democratic Party continue to hemorrhage support among some minority voting groups and Independents, according to a new poll conducted by the Trafalgar Group for AMAC.

The survey of 1,078 likely voters (September 21-26) found that a staggering 70.9 percent of Hispanics, 60 percent of Asian Americans, and 59.2 percent of unaffiliated voters do not approve of Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan. Black voters were the only racial/ethnic group with which the plan remains popular, according to the poll, with 85.9 percent saying they approved. But such overwhelming opposition to the plan from every other group is bad news for Democrats just a few weeks out from Election Day.

Biden’s student loan “forgiveness” plan, announced in August, will cancel anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower. While the policy delivers on a key 2020 campaign promise, the AMAC poll shows that a majority of likely voters (53.2 percent) oppose the plan. According to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the plan will cost anywhere between $469 billion and $519 billion, effectively shifting the burden of student debt from borrowers to taxpayers – most of whom did not take out the loans in the first place.

Many commentators were quick to point out that the recipients of this financial boon would primarily be wealthier Americans or those with high future earning potential. For example, law, business, and medical school graduates statistically have high student loan debt, often well into six figures per graduate. Yet their earnings potential is also much higher, and many law firms and hospitals have loan repayment assistance programs. According to the Brookings Institution, the top 40 percent of households by income also account for 60 percent of the student loan debt.

Some legal experts have also suggested that Biden’s plan may not even be legal. Thus far, at least four separate lawsuits have been filed against the administration and are alleging that the policy is wholly unconstitutional. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in July of last year stated that Biden does not have the power to unilaterally cancel student debt. Charlie Rose, the top lawyer at the Department of Education under the Obama administration, similarly argued that the president does not have the power to forgive student debt without an act of Congress. Nevertheless, a White House official has stated that, in spite of the lawsuits and clear constitutional concerns, “we’re charging full speed ahead in getting relief to the borrowers who need it most.”

Unsurprisingly, a large majority of Democrats (79.7 percent) say they approve of the plan in the AMAC/Trafalgar poll. But 13.2 percent don’t approve, and 7.1 percent said they weren’t sure – an usual degree of opposition to a policy implemented by a president that most of these respondents voted for. With such overwhelming majorities of Hispanics and Asians – two groups Democrats can ill afford to lose support among – clearly opposed, it would seem that Biden has badly miscalculated both public support for the policy and his legal authority to enact mass student debt forgiveness in the first place.

Incredibly, however, some Democrats in Congress are still pressing for even more student debt forgiveness. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock has, for instance, pledged to push for $50,000 in additional student loan forgiveness should he win reelection – a policy more in line with self-avowed “democratic socialists” like Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Notably, Biden was much more restrained than most other candidates in his promises for student debt cancellation in the 2020 campaign, indicating that two more years of a Democratic Congress would likely mean even more extreme debt forgiveness schemes.

Republican candidates appear to have a golden opportunity to capitalize on another deeply unpopular Biden policy if they can make this connection clear to voters in the final weeks of the fall campaign season. With an ongoing recession and record-high inflation, most Americans will be none too happy with the thought of more government handouts for the comparatively wealthy.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.