America's Newest Voting Bloc: People In Debt

February 27, 2012 | | Chicago Tribune |

Soccer moms, NASCAR dads, Reagan Democratsand evangelicals have all been key voter blocs in past elections. This time around, "people in debt" may be a group candidates target if they want to be elected.

Some Republican presidential candidates might face a losing battle among student debtors, where campaign messages about debt could mobilize young voters. Newt Gingrich talked about student loan debt as a matter of personal responsibility in a November debate, saying it would be a "culture shock for the students of America to learn we actually expect them to go to class, study, get out quickly, charge as little as possible and emerge debt-free by doing the right things for four years."
 
Gingrich's message of personal responsibility may resonate with Republicans, says Dan Judy, a vice president at North Star Opinion Research, a Republican public opinion research firm. Voters without such debt may look at today's graduates and say, "You know what? Maybe you should have gone to a cheaper college," Judy says.
 
However, Gingrich's argument could backfire with many voters, says Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and programs at Demos, a New York-based think tank. "This is not an individual choice. This is a system that we have let develop over time," she says. Draut adds that she believes President Obama has done a better job of appealing to student debtors than Republicans have, with his plans to cap interest and payments on those loans.