In a recent First Focus Campaign for Children poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, likely voters were asked about their views on children’s issues and how well they felt policies regarding children were being handled today. The results revealed an overwhelming concern for our nation’s youth. The results also highlighted that many adults are not optimistic about many of the challenges facing our youth. The majority of those surveyed (56 percent) indicated that they believed the lives of American children have gotten worse over the last ten years and that they (59 percent) were not confident that life for our children’s generation would be better than it has been for us.

These startling statistics unveil a deep fear that our youth will be worse off in the future. With the pending election we expect candidates to address this national issue, but so far this does not seem to be the case. Only a small fraction (12 percent) of likely voters said that they’ve seen, read, or heard a lot from our Presidential candidates on children’s issues. Although voters did express more confidence in Barack Obama than in Mitt Romney (42 percent over 32 percent) in handling the problems facing children in America, Romney holds a slight lead among some voting populations (women over 55, some middle-aged me, and some middle income voters.) Voters communicated that they believed the needs children should receive more priority than both the needs of elderly and needs of the military, showing the high priority they place on our youth. In the upcoming election, addressing children’s problems may prove important in winning support.

One of the key problems affecting our country is the budget crisis. Congressional offices, political parties, and Americans as a whole are worried about the debt crisis and growing deficits. This fear has stimulated Congress to devise ways to cut back on funding, including funding for programs dedicated to helping kids. While it is admirable for Congress to try to amend their fiscal budget, they may be hurting children in the process. Cuts to programs such as CHIP and Medicaid take away health insurance from children who would otherwise lack health coverage. A large number of voters (74 percent) opposed these cuts to our children’s health. There are a number of ways voters indicated as acceptable ways of maintaining the budget (cuts to other government programs, cutting subsidies to oil companies and other big corporations, etc.), but cutting benefits to children was not one of them. In fact, most voters (58 percent) showed support for increasing governmental investments that affect children. If government officials want to please voters, they are going to have to take this into account.

A growing Latino population in the United States may help catalyze politicians to action for kids. Latino voters consistently come out in strong support of children’s issues. Opposing cuts to the existing federal programs for kids is highly supported by Latino voters: 93 percent oppose spending cuts to education, 79 percent oppose cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and 79 percent opposed cuts to loans and financial aid for students. Three-fourths of Latinos likely to vote in November said they would take into account the Presidential candidates’ decisions regarding children in the budget when deciding who to vote for. Children of Hispanic origin make up 23 percent of our nation’s children, and that percentage is on the rise. If the candidates want to win over more votes, they are going to have to take these concerns for children’s issues into account, since about half of Latino voters are undecided on who they plan to cast their ballot for.

In addition to the Latino population’s concern for children, an overwhelming 82 percent of voters indicated that they would take the candidates’ positions on children’s issues into account when voting in the upcoming general election. The United States obviously cares about kids, and in order to win spots in November’s election, politicians will have to show that they do to.