Poll: Plurality of Americans say they support Biden's student loan forgiveness plan

A plurality of Americans support President Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan, with a majority backing a plan to back more forgiveness for lower income borrowers, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Nearly half of respondents — 48% — said they backed the White House plan to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for Americans making under $125,000 or households making under $250,000, versus 34% who oppose the plan. Responses regarding the plan to forgive up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, most of whom come from low-income families, was 51% support versus 30% opposed.

Support for the White House’s plan varied among age groups. Respondents ages 65 and over opposed the plan by a 43% to 47% margin. However, a majority of those ages 18-29 (53% support) and 30-44 (52%) backed the plan.

The plan also won the support of 68% of Black Americans, 50% of Hispanics and 70% of those who currently have student loan debt. Among independents, 44% support the plan while 39% are opposed.

When respondents were asked about their support for more aggressive action, results were evenly split: Forgiving $50,000 in student loan debt received 45% support versus 44% opposition, while forgiving all student loan debt received 43% support to 47% opposition.

The survey of 1,634 U.S. adults was conducted from Sept. 2-6.

Biden announced the debt forgiveness plan last month, fulfilling a 2020 campaign promise after pressure from top Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as first-term Sen. Raphael Warnock, who faces a tough reelection race in Georgia.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a news conference on Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a news conference on Wednesday. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Republicans have attacked Biden’s plan as a handout to affluent families. Roughly 40% of Americans have a college degree, and those who do tend to make more money than their less-educated peers. The plan would apply to the millions of Americans who accrued student loan debt but did not earn a degree.

Republicans also argue that Biden lacks the authority to pay off student loans with taxpayer money, while some GOP officials suggested that they might challenge the law in court. And Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said that the plan would hurt military recruitment, as many low-income Americans look at service as a way to pay for their education versus wealthier families who can cover the cost of college.

According to an April report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, canceling $10,000 per borrower “would forgive a total of $321 billion of federal student loans, eliminate the entire balance for 11.8 million borrowers (31.1 percent), and cancel 30.5 percent of loans delinquent or in default” as of spring 2020.

An Emerson College poll released shortly after Biden’s announcement last week found that 36% of respondents thought the Biden plan forgave too much, 30% thought it forgave too little and 35% thought it was just right. Analysis from Goldman Sachs found that the forgiveness is likely to have minimal impact on spending and inflation, as student loan payments — paused since March 2020 — are set to resume at the beginning of next year following one last extension of the moratorium from Biden.

President Biden speaking from behind a podium.
President Biden announces his student loan relief plan on Aug. 24. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

“I ran for office to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out because when we do that, everyone does better, everybody does well. The wealthy do very well, the poor have a way up and the middle class can have breathing room,” Biden said during his Aug. 25 remarks discussing the plan, concluding, “That’s what today’s announcement is about. It’s about opportunity. It’s about giving people a fair shot. It’s about the one word America can be defined by: possibilities.”

The loan forgiveness policy has been part of a recent run of good news for Democrats, who pulled ahead of Republicans on a generic congressional ballot by 5 points, according to the Yahoo News/YouGov results. The survey also found Biden leading former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical rematch by 6 points, the widest margin since March. Biden’s slowly improving poll numbers have been fueled by increased approval from Democrats and independents.

Thumbnail photo: Craig Hudson for the Washington Post via Getty Images