A new survey reveals that a vast majority of North Carolina voters want the state to invest more in child care — and they want that investment this year.
The NC Chamber Foundation commissioned the survey from New Bridge Strategy in April to learn what North Carolinians think about child care across political and geographic boundaries.
Nine in 10 voters say taking action to ensure that more working families have access to affordable, quality child care should be an important priority this year.
This is in stark contrast to the current budget priorities of the Republican-led General Assembly, which do not include significant investment in early childhood care and education.
Current state of child care
New Bridge Strategies surveyed 500 North Carolina registered voters April 13-18.
“Just to give you some perspective, when we’re doing national work, we’re usually talking to 800 to 1,000 respondents in order to represent all Americans,” Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy said during a recent presentation of the results.
The survey participants were a representative sample of the state’s registered voters.
Among participants, only the cost of housing and crime were seen as more serious challenges than child care.
“I don’t think anyone is shocked that the top two are sort of things that are at the top of our news feeds, are on the front page of the paper often,” Weigel said. “But not very far behind that is the lack of quality, affordable childcare programs.”
Three-quarters of respondents view that lack of programs as a serious problem, regardless of whether they report living in cities, suburbs, small towns, or rural areas.
Even in a polarized political climate, there’s consensus that lack of childcare is a serious problem: 69% of Republicans, 71% of independents, and 89% of Democrats agree.
Across party affiliation, nine in 10 voters were concerned about low wages for teachers and workers, the cost of child care for families, and the challenges parents face when balancing child care and work responsibilities.
“All three of these are in that sort of stratospheric level in terms of people saying that these are serious problems in the state,” Weigel said.
More than half of parents reported relying on family, friends, or neighbors to help provide child care because it’s too expensive. For parents of children ages 0-5 it was 60%. The numbers were similar for parents who had to call out or miss a shift at work because of a problem with child care.
This has huge implications for the workforce in North Carolina.
“Lack of quality, affordable child care is causing parents to leave the workforce or turn down opportunities — exacerbating the state’s labor shortage and threatening business and economic growth,” the NC Chamber Foundation said in the executive summary of the survey findings.
Importance of quality, affordable child care
Four in five respondents said access to quality, affordable child care is essential or very important to strengthening the economy and helping workers provide for their families. Again, this held true regardless of geography.
Across political parties, 74% of Republicans, 78% of independents, and 84% of Democrats agreed that child care is essential to the economic success of North Carolina and families who live here.
“Most things I listen to people talk about fall on party lines,” Weigel said, “and this is not one of them.”
Voters also want additional state funding to go toward child care this year.
Eighty-seven percent said that more working families having access to affordable, quality child care should be a priority for the state this year.
“We’ve got 87% saying, y’all need to get on this,” Weigel said. “People are really seeing this as an urgent problem. And I think even more significantly, it’s not just the urgency of it, but that people are willing to back it with state funding.”
Seventy-nine percent supported increasing state funding to provide working families with access to affordable, high-quality child care. That includes two-thirds of Republicans.
Eighty-six percent of voters said improving the quality of child care and making it more affordable for families is a good investment. That included 76% of Republicans, 86% of independents, and 97% of Democrats.
“Across the partisan spectrum in the state, we’ve got a vast majority telling us that they connect access to quality, affordable child care with our ability to strengthen the economy,” Weigel said. “I think that’s why we see people really telling us this is not just important but an urgent problem.”
Ninety percent of voters said that child care should be a bipartisan issue that state leaders should work on together.
“I’ve talked about these issues for over 15 years,” Weigel said. “We just didn’t used to see the kinds of numbers that I’m presenting to y’all today.”
You can take a deeper dive into the survey results here.