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Covid-19 Sparks Huge Shifts in American Financial Well-Being, Openness to Change, Poll Finds

Unemployment drives bipartisan support for practical changes to workplace benefits

Washington, D.C. | June 8, 2020 – A new nationwide survey of likely voters conducted for the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation finds bipartisan support for reforms that support American workers and their families. With over half of the U.S. workforce experiencing unemployment or reduced income due to Covid-19, the survey finds that Americans want jobs restored and expect reforms.

Three in four voters (76%) are not content to simply return to the same systems that existed prior to the Covid-19 economic crisis. However, most voters are not drawn to big systemic changes such as universal income, as much as they support pragmatic solutions tethered to employment, such as unemployment assistance reform, benefit portability, and family leave benefits.

“An overwhelming percentage of voters from both parties want practical solutions that empower and protect America’s working families,” said BPC President Jason Grumet. “While demanding major change, voters also express skepticism about vast new government programs. These results should remind lawmakers that people want real jobs not empty promises.”

“Far too many hard-working Americans were already living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic, which has exposed the fragility of America’s social safety net,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, which funded the poll. “This data shows that Americans don’t just want to go back to the way things were. They want changes to the American economy that enables their children and families to not just survive, but thrive.”

Key findings include:

  • Unemployment benefit reform:  90% of Democrats, 87% of Republicans, and 89% of Independents view favorably unemployment benefit reform, with a 62% majority of those who view it favorably saying benefit reform would make a “real and useful” difference in the lives of people they know.
  • Licensing reform/scope of practice: Fully 86% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 86% of all Independents favor licensing reform, with a 59% majority of those who view it favorably saying it would make a “real and useful” difference in the lives of people they know.
  • 401(k) portability & multi-job coverage: Fully 86% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans, and an identical 90% of Independents favor 401(k) retirement portability and multi-job coverage reform, with half (49%) saying 401(k) reform of this type would make a “real and useful” difference.
  • Extend expanded paid Family and Medical Leave: Fully 87% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans, and 86% of Independents favor extending paid leave benefit post-COVID with employer tax incentive so that it is less likely to hurt job creation.

Additional findings include:

  • 30% of working voter households have had at least one adult apply for unemployment benefits.
  • 42% of working voter households have become “job hurt,” either experiencing unemployment, furlough, a pay cut, or are unpaid.
  • 51% of single-parent households and a similar percentage of Hispanics have filed for unemployment. One-third of African American households and a quarter of white households have also filed for unemployment.
  • Republicans and Democrats are equally as likely to have applied for unemployment benefits, leading to 89% consensus to reform systems to reflect the 21st century workforce, including flexibility for gig workers.
  • 45% of Americans report their workplace is operating in a reduced capacity and 18% report it has closed.

The BPC online poll surveyed 1,200 likely American voters during early May, when many households and individuals were struggling with unemployment, lost or diminished wages, and depleted savings. At that time, some began receiving government assistance from the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.

The poll’s overall margin of error is +/- 2.83% at the 95% confidence level and higher for subgroups. The survey followed eight focus group sessions conducted in Dallas, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pa., in early March, just before COVID-19 related restrictions began to be put in place in the United States.

Explore the full survey results 


About Bipartisan Policy Center
The Bipartisan Policy Center is a Washington, DC-based think tank that actively fosters bipartisanship by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans. Our policy solutions are the product of informed deliberations by former elected and appointed officials, business and labor leaders, and academics and advocates who represent both sides of the political spectrum. BPC prioritizes one thing above all else: getting things done.

Media Contact:
Ari Goldberg
Media Relations Director | Bipartisan Policy Center
+1 (240) 678-9102

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact
Ashley E. Chang
Director of Program Influence | The Rockefeller Foundation
+1 (212) 852-8451