Poll: Congress Risks Voter Backlash For Letting Unemployment Benefits Expire


Unemployed workers waiting to enter a career fair

Republicans could face voter backlash in their home districts for failing to extend long-term unemployment benefits expiring at the end of the month. According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, a clear majority of voters in five Republican districts support continuing unemployment benefits for Americans unemployed for longer than six months. PPP found that most Republican voters are at odds with GOP lawmakers who are letting funds dry up. Without congressional action to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation fund, 1.3 million Americans are about to lose their only income lifeline.

At least 63 percent of voters for district seats held by Mike Coffman (R-CO), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Gary Miller (R-CA), support continued benefits for the jobless. Constituents in House Speaker John Boehner’s district likewise support the program extension 63-34. These incumbents also face backlash from their own party. Not only do voters support unemployment benefits, but they also said it would factor into voting decisions. In each district, a plurality of voters answered they are less likely to vote for representatives who fail to extend the program.

While the unemployment rate has fallen in the last year, people who have been out of a job for several months face an especially harsh situation. More than one-third of unemployed people have been out of work longer than 27 weeks. Long-term unemployment rates are particularly high in California and Michigan, where 215,000 and 189,700 unemployed people will be affected.

Congress’ short-term budget deal does not touch the Emergency Unemployment Compensation fund, and Boehner has demanded matching cuts to other federal programs before the House considers an extension. Yet in the past, even GOP lawmakers have argued that the program is vital to the nation’s economic health.