A new EdTrends poll of voters in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada shows that Democrats have given up what was once a double-digit lead on “trust in education” and are now lagging behind Republicans by 3 percentage points.
The poll revealing the historic shift was released Friday by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). This organization lobbies for Democrat candidates and heads campaigns to achieve “educational equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.”
DFER campaigns for public charter school expansion but not school choice for private education.
A survey question asked, “Regardless of how you usually vote, which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you trust to do a better job making sure public schools ae preparing students for success after high school by ensuring they are teaching students to read and do math well?”
Among respondents, only 33 percent responded they trusted Democrats on education, while 36 percent said they trusted Republicans, and 17 percent said “neither” party.
“Public education was the only issue where Republicans had an advantage in each state,” DFER appeared to assure Democrats. “Democrats held double digit leads over Republicans on ensuring women have access to quality healthcare [abortion] (+21%) and protecting the environment [climate change] (+13%). Democrats’ edge on reducing gun violence was smaller (+7%).”
“The crisis in education has mounted into one voters simply cannot ignore,” said DFER CEO Jorge Elorza in a statement. “Voters—especially parents—want to see more choices for their children. Republicans are capitalizing on this. Embracing public school choice isn’t just the right thing today, but it will help Democrats reconnect with frustrated voters and families who know that more of the same won’t fix our public education system.”
Survey results found nearly six out of ten parents have not seen improvements in their public schools, despite unprecedented levels of federal pandemic relief funding over the past three years.
“After historic levels of federal stimulus spending on public education, only 30% of voters (41% of parents) reported they had taken notice of some recent improvement, while 31% (34% of parents) said schools were about the same and 20% (19% of parents) said they were worse than before,” DFER noted.
The Democrat organization still had encouraging words for education policymakers in its affiliated party, noting survey results still showed Democrats seek public school choice, not school choice options that allow parents to send their children to private schools.
The poll showed “strong favorability among all voters, including Democrats and Independent voters for public school choice, including public charter schools (64% and 66%), public magnet schools (62% and 60%), and career academies (70% and 67%),” DFER stated.
“Despite Republican choice programs in these states, voters still prefer the Democratic vision of public-school choice by 35-percentage points (68-32%),” the organization said.
The representative poll of 1,200 respondents was conducted by Emerson College Polling between July 17-19, 2023, among voters in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada, and has a credibility interval of +/- 3 percent.
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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]