Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would support government assistance for those with college debt, while 38 percent were opposed. A further 14 percent were undecided.
The question was asked as part of a first-of-its-kind Rare poll that surveyed only respondents under 40. The questions were tailored to chart trends in the opinions of younger voters.
Particularly supportive were voters ages 18-29, 57 percent of whom wanted the government to get involved in student debt. Also in support were Democrats (69 percent), African Americans (69 percent), and, perhaps most unsurprisingly, those with graduate degrees (56 percent).
Republicans were less supportive, with only 31 percent in favor of government loan aid.
Lindsey Burke, an education expert from the conservative Heritage Foundation, expressed skepticism over the government getting more involved in the student loan industry.
“Having the federal government ‘pay down’ student loans or forgive balances isn’t free,” Burke said in an interview with Rare. “Taxpayers, many of whom don’t hold bachelor’s degrees themselves, would be on the tab for this federal largesse.”
Democrats generally support more relief for student loans. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Senator Elizabeth Warren said the government should do more.
“This country invests in tax loopholes for billionaires,” Warren said. “And forces college students to pay for them through higher interest rates on their loans. That makes no sense at all.”
Relieving student loan debt is an issue that’s historically worked for President Obama, who touted such a package in both of his presidential campaigns. In 2009, Congress passed and Obama signed a sweeping overhaul that consolidated much of the student loan industry under federal control.
Heavy student loan debt has also been linked to troubles later in life. A recent Gallup survey found that those with more than $50,000 in college debt had lower standards of physical and financial well-being later in life.
Americans hold a total of about $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. The price index for college tuition skyrocketed 80 percent between 2003 and 2013.
The Rare survey was conducted by nonpartisan Gravis Marketing between August 11 and August 18. A total of 556 respondents under age 40 were interviewed over the phone and using Internet panels. Overall, the poll has a margin of error of 5 percent.
Matt Naham contributed to this report.