Dem Poll: Nearly 70 Percent Support School Choice

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 23, 2015 8:30 PM
Dem Poll: Nearly 70 Percent Support School Choice

If there’s one issue that has virtual approval from everyone, it’s school choice. Beck Research, a Democratic polling firm, found that nearly 70 percent of Americans support the concept of school choice, 45 percent strongly support it, and only 27 percent oppose it. These poll results were unveiled at a press conference held by the American Federation for Children at the National Press Club yesterday.

From their press release [emphasis mine]:

“The findings of this poll reflect what we saw in the 2014 midterms and what I am seeing in communities across the country – a demand from parents for more options in deciding how their children are educated,” said Kevin Chavous, AFC’s executive counsel. “Educational choice through opportunity scholarships and charter schools provide these options. As communities from New Orleans to Milwaukee to Miami have learned, educational choice is an immediate solution for parents’ who have children trapped in underperforming schools. Americans know that a zip code should not dictate a child’s future.”

Chavous cited other signs of school choice momentum – the resounding victories of prominent school choice advocates in the 2014 elections and a growing sense that national education unions are losing their influence with voters. Teachers unions spent at least $80 million in 2014 to express opposition to candidates supportive of such education reforms – and lost every race.

Chavous, a Democrat, former DC City Councilman and one-time mayoral candidate, urged his party to recognize the importance of the survey’s results. “As the 2016 primary fights begin, education reform is certain to take center stage – especially as a number of Republican candidates tout their records supporting expanded parental choice. As the civil rights issue of the 21st century – I urge the candidates in my party to recognize the shift in public opinion and embrace parental choice by putting the needs of students first.”

Deborah Beck of Beck Research said, “The poll clearly shows widespread support, among both political parties, for school choice. Any public official – or potential candidate for President -- who ignores these numbers does so at their own peril.”

Five key findings from poll:

  • 69 percent support the concept of school choice, including 45 percent who strongly support it, 27 percent oppose it.
  • 76 percent support public charter schools, with only 20 percent opposing it.
  • 54 percent of those surveyed believe that giving parents more choices of schools will improve the education system.
  • 65 percent believe choice and competition among schools improves education.
  • 62 percent believe we need to make major changes to the ways that public schools are run.

Some Republicans in blue states, like Gov. Chris Christie, have pushed for school choice initiatives–and it has yielded exceptional political dividends. Christie cruised to re-election in 2013, netting 60 percent of the vote, along with winning pretty much winning every demographic in the state. He also doubled his support amongst African-American voters, possibly due to his support for school choice policies.

On the other hand, Christie is way too moderate to win the GOP nomination. While he’s taken on the teachers unions, New Jersey’s economic picture is still awful, making any positive narrative about the state’s fiscal health close to laughable.

Nevertheless, Republicans have found an issue, like the Keystone Pipeline, that is insanely popular with Americans. Democrats seem to be onboard as well, but the left’s relationship with unions could have left-leaning allies looking over their shoulders more, especially during election years (i.e. every year).

Maybe this should be on the docket for this session after the Republican fumble on the bill restricting late-term abortions which was–though well-intentioned–straight up embarrassing.