Dear Candidate, Where Do You Stand on Poverty? 88 Percent of Voters Want to Know.
What surprises you more: the fact that more than one in seven people in this country live in poverty (with more than 25 percent of children under age 5 in poverty)[i], or the fact that 88 percent of voters say a candidate’s position on poverty is important in deciding their vote? According to a new poll by McLaughlin and Associates released Tuesday at the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity forum, when participants were asked, how important a candidate’s position on poverty was when deciding their vote for president, 88 percent said a candidate’s position is important in deciding their vote, and nearly half (45 percent) said the issue is "very important."
Given how little media attention poverty gets and how we so rarely hear candidates speak honestly about issues of hunger and poverty, these statistics took me by surprise. But I suppose I shouldn’t have been. At Bread for the World, we’ve known for a long time that people care about hunger and poverty. High levels of poverty and our commitment to ending it says something about ourselves as a country.
I also shouldn’t be surprised because hunger and poverty have no party. This is not a partisan issue; it is a moral one. This is about getting breakfast to kids so they can learn in school and perform well on their tests. This is about ensuring that a parent working full time at minimum wage is able to provide for his/her children and put food on the table. This is about ensuring that the poorest people on earth are able to eat each day. This is about creating opportunity for our children.
On Tuesday, Bread for the World launched our 2012 Offering of Letters Campaign, which urges Congress and the White House to create a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people. Calling for a circle of protection embodies an idea that is so fundamental to our society and our values as a country that it is something everyone can get behind, regardless of political identification, geographic location, or religious affiliation. As the McLaughlin poll demonstrates, a majority of voters, regardless of party affiliation, are concerned with supporting hungry and poor people.
Given that 88 percent of voters care about a candidate’s position on poverty, Bread for the World members and people of faith around the country should be determined and confident in raising hunger and poverty as issues with candidates in the 2012 elections. Go to candidate forums and boldly ask those running for office, “If elected will you commit to forming a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people?” Write to your local papers. Make hunger and poverty key election issues, and you can be confident that 88 percent of voters will be right there with you, listening for candidates’ answers.
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