Americans Say Education Plays A Major Role In Their Voting Choices

No matter which candidate is elected president Nov. 3rd 2020, college students have definite ideas about what areas the new administration should focus on early in its term. Seventy-percent of the respondents to a recent survey of college students rated the economy the highest when asked how much focus the new president should place on a number of issues. This was followed by healthcare (60%), ucdm, and alternative sources of energy (52%). Americans place quality education at the top of their list of priorities, and they want their elected leaders to do the same. According to a national public opinion poll education is a hot-button issue: Americans want their elected leaders to produce results, not rhetoric. They also want leaders who will make education funding recession proof. The poll shows that Americans oppose any cuts to education funding, even at the cost of deep cuts to other services they deem essential-services such as healthcare, Social Security, law enforcement, and roads and transportation. When asked to name one or two priorities that government should shield from spending cuts, 53 percent of Americans cite education and schools. That percentage equals the combined total of all other responses, including healthcare (18 percent), law enforcement (8 percent), Social Security (6 percent), and the military (2 percent). All major demographic categories – including senior citizens – support education funding over every other spending priority. Americans, however, recognize that in the current economic climate there will be little or no new funding for education, especially at the state level. Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) of Americans would make early childhood education either their first or second choice to protect from budget cuts, followed by reduced class size (35 percent), teacher training (32 percent), and teacher pay (25 percent).

Education ranks second only to the economy and jobs on the public’s list of most serious concerns, even outranking terrorism and security. Americans believe that quality education for all is a national priority. More than 4 out of 5 (85 percent) say achieving this goal is personally important to them, and more than 9 out of 10 (92 percent) Americans say that providing all children with a quality education is an attainable goal, not a pipe dream. Americans care about school quality for practical reasons and out of concern for their community. They believe that quality public schools build stronger families (24 percent), improve the local economy (20 percent), and reduce crime rates (15 percent). Some 42 percent of Americans say their decisions about where to live were influenced by the quality of schools in the community. We have made a national commitment to hold every student and every school accountable for measurable improvements in learning. Today it seems all political candidates – whether vying for an office in city hall, a seat in the state legislature, or a chance to go to Washington – claim to be education candidates. But the public has very clear ideas on what education candidates should be doing and how elected officials will be held accountable. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans say a candidate’s stance on education is either one of the most important factors or a very important factor influencing their vote. Even 59 percent of those without school-age children agree. Americans feel much more favorably toward candidates who believe that education decisions are best made by parents, teachers, and principals (88 percent); who understand education issues (87 percent); who will protect education from budget cuts (86 percent); and who want education to focus on the basics (86 percent). In contrast, Americans are far less likely to favor candidates who suggest visionary programs without first explaining how they intend to fund and implement them (40 percent), who support vouchers (39 percent), or who favor giving mayors or city councils direct control over schools (38 percent). Americans have strikingly consistent views about how to improve public education nationwide. In each of the past two polls, nearly one-third of survey participants (29 percent) rated teacher quality as the most important factor in improving student learning, with equalized funding between rich and poor schools as the second most important factor (16 percent). In this year’s poll, 15 percent of Americans also cite quality early childhood education for all children as an important factor in improving student learning, 12 percent say reduced class size, and another 12 percent want all children to be able to read by the fourth grade. However, a scant 5 percent believe that using taxpayer money for private school options will improve the quality of education. One reason Americans support quality teaching is that many are teachers or know teachers. Three out of 10 Americans (29 percent) are teachers or have close family members who are current or former teachers. Survey results indicate this “teacher” group could be a powerful voting bloc; nearly three-quarters say that a politician’s education platform plays a major role in their voting choices. In comparison, approximately two-thirds of all Americans say education plays a major role in their voting choices. When it comes to assessing school performance, voters value information on teacher quality (76 percent) and student literacy (74 percent) the most, followed by information about books and other learning tools (74 percent), school budgets (67 percent), comparisons of local schools to other schools in the state (66 percent), and data on school safety (63 percent).

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