Key Findings: On-Line Survey of Battleground CDs Regarding Attitudes Toward National Service





Executive Summary

Battleground congressional districts offer important insights on public policy issues and political divisions in this country, because they include Americans from the full range of the political spectrum.

Recent polling in these districts show that Americans are concerned about the direction of the country, looking for ways to heal the political divisions in the country, and believe that expanding national service will help the healing process.

The polling also showed that Americans who participate in national service are more engaged in their communities and take on more civic responsibility.

The majority of Americans want to increase funding and expand national service opportunities, but the case still needs to be made to bring this public policy issue to the fore. In particular, they want to see these service opportunities support disaster relief, address the needs of senior citizens and the homeless, support veterans, and help the hungry.

Key Findings

1. In a time of great polarization, voters are looking for ways to bind the political wounds that are hurting the country. Voters believe national service can help.

By nearly two-to-one, voters say the country is pretty seriously off on the wrong track instead of going in the right direction. Voters have been pessimistic about the direction of the country since January 2004, the longest streak of negativity since this question was designed in the late 1960s.

Fully 92% of voters say it is important to heal the deep political divisions in the country, and 58% say having a bigger national service program would help to heal those divisions. This sentiment is consistent across party lines.

2. Participation in national service helps lead to increased civic engagement.

Voters who have either participated, or know someone who has, in military or civilian national service are more engaged in civic activity than those who do not have that connection.

3. Voters across political parties are favorable towards national service once defined. Low pay is perceived as the main barrier.

Defined, national service receives high marks across party lines, as the percentage who support it is 92% among Republicans, 89% among Independents, and 87% among Democrats. Low pay is seen as the biggest barrier to national service.

4. Voters prioritize increasing national service to support disaster recover, help senior citizens, and help the homeless.

The top five came in at a combined 34% to 41%, including disaster recovery, senior citizens, the homeless, veterans issues, and hunger.

5. Nearly two-thirds favor increasing federal government spending to increase national service opportunities.

A significant majority prefer cutting other programs (70%) over tax increases (30%).

6. A majority of Americans want to increase funding and expand national service opportunities, but the case still needs to be made for expanding national service.

Respondents were given the amount of money spent on the military ($693 billion) compared to national service organizations (less than $2 billion). A slim majority says that money is too little (53%), while 35% say it is about right and 12% say it is too much.

Similarly, 55% say more Americans are needed in civilian national service programs, while 35% say the 300,000 who currently serve is about right and 10% say fewer are needed.

The Bottom Line

Americans want to start healing the political divide and view national service as a pathway. Serving the country, or knowing someone who does, improves civic engagement and community involvement. To maximize this opportunity, policymakers need to be aware that support for national service is high, but passion is low. A strong, sustained case needs to be made before Americans will get behind any policy proposals that increase funding. More results can be found here.


Public Opinion Strategies conducted an on-line survey of 800 likely voters in 53 battleground Congressional Districts across the country. The list of districts is from the Cook Political Report’s battleground list as of October 30, 2019.