Exclusive: Poll shows pressure on vulnerable GOP senators to back state and local coronavirus aid
A new poll shows overwhelming public support in Senate battleground states for Congress to provide up to $1 trillion in fiscal relief to state and local governments whose budgets have been drained by the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 70 percent of voters surveyed in Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina say they support spending $1 trillion in federal money to prevent cuts to health-care providers, teachers and first responders.
The poll, from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) firm, also showed that more than 50 percent of Republican voters in those states said they support a massive infusion of funding to state and local governments.
For example, in North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is in a toss-up reelection race, 73 percent of voters — including 74 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans — said they support Democrats’ demands to include $1 trillion for state and local governments in the next coronavirus package.
North Carolina voters were contacted July 23 and July 24 and the survey had a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
The PPP survey, commissioned by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), also shows voters in six Senate battlegrounds and Alaska are firmly opposed to the idea of letting states declare bankruptcy, an idea that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated in April.
“Now, as a surge of the virus continues across the country, senators can no longer ignore the calls of voters, local elected officials and economists who have repeatedly called for this relief,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders in a statement.
“If senators don’t do the right thing and services are cut when our communities need them most, in November voters will know whom to blame,” he said.
The $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal the White House and Senate Republicans unveiled Monday does not have any new fiscal relief for cash-strapped state and local governments, though Republican senators argue that $105 billion in aid to colleges and schools is a form of state and local aid.
Democrats are calling for $1 trillion in money to help state and local governments avoid layoffs of police officers, firefighters and teachers and the new data from PPP shows that position has strong support in swing states.
The Heroes Act, passed by the House in May, includes more than $1 trillion for state and local governments, including $915 billion in flexible aid that state and local officials can use to backfill revenue losses, according to the Tax Foundation.
The new survey shows especially high support for more state and local aid among voters in Maine, where Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is in the toughest reelection fight of her Senate career, and Georgia, where two GOP incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are on the ballot.
Seventy-seven percent of voters in Maine, including 79 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans, said they support $1 trillion in state and local aid. The survey in that state was conducted July 23 and July 24 and had a margin of error of 3.2 percent.
Seventy-eight percent of voters in Georgia, including 80 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans, said they support the large amount of federal assistance for their states. The survey was also conducted in late July and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
Some Republicans from these states, such as Collins, who is an original sponsor of legislation to set up a $500 billion “SMART Fund” for state and county needs, are already on the record supporting more federal aid to their home states.
But other GOP lawmakers have kept a low profile on the issue.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who is in a toss-up race against Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), supports the RELIEF for Main Street Act, which would provide $50 billion to state and local governments to help small businesses, according to the Ravalli Republic.
The PPP survey showed that 70 percent of voters in Montana support $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, with 68 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans supporting the idea. The poll in Montana had a margin of error of 3.2 percent.
Given the strong support for more federal money to states, counties and cities, Senate Republicans acknowledge it will likely be added to the next relief bill, which is estimated to cost between $1 trillion and $3 trillion.
“You got to remember, this is the beginning. This is round one. There will be a lot more rounds,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Monday. “There will be a lot more negotiations.”
The PPP survey also showed President Trump with weak approval ratings in several battleground states.
It showed him underwater in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina.
The president has an approval rating of 39 percent and a disapproval rating of 57 percent in Colorado; an approval rating of 44 percent and a disapproval rating of 49 percent in Georgia; an approval rating of 47 percent and a disapproval rating of 49 percent in Iowa; an approval rating of 41 percent and a disapproval rating of 55 percent in Maine; and an approval rating of 47 percent and a disapproval rating of 50 percent in North Carolina.
Democratic governors in four of the states surveyed had significantly higher approval ratings.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has a 51 percent approval rating, Maine Gov. Janet Mills has a 52 percent approval rating, Bullock has a 55 percent approval rating and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has a 52-percent approval rating.
Their disapproval ratings ranged from a low of 33 percent for Polis to 39 percent for Mills.