Poll finds support across demographics for school choice

RealClear Opinion Research found black voters especially favor concept.

Re-posted from a story posted December 6, 2019 to Florida Politics Blog

By Jacob Ogles

A new poll shows growing support for school choice.

RealClear Opinion Research survey looked at school choice broadly and tested specific policy proposals.

The poll found 69 percent of registered voters support the concept of school choice, and the same number favor the ability to send children to schools beyond their zoned public school. About 70% of registered voters support a federal tax scholarship.

Advocates touted the results as a sign of growing support for educational scholarships, with one suggesting Florida was leading the way on the issue.

“Once again, a new round of nationwide public polling in 2019 confirms that school choice is incredibly popular with voters in every category, especially a federal tax credit proposal like the Education Freedom Scholarships,” said John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children.

“This is a unifying issue among voters and policymakers should take action. The polling clearly shows that parents want more and better educational options for their children, and as we’ve seen in states like Florida and Arizona, they will become intensely passionate about candidates who support school choice.”

Respondents were specifically asked if they support a proposal in Congress where individuals and businesses could donate to a nonprofit fund granting organizations in states the ability to award scholarships to students who want to attend public, private, career or technical schools of their choice.

That’s similar to how the state-managed Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program operates

The survey found the strongest support for this voucher program among voters age 45 to 54, where 74 percent favored the policy. The lowest support came among those ages 18 to 24, but 66% of that group also favored a tax scholarship program as described. And 71 percent of black voters were supportive, the highest level of any racial demographic.

The poll found 73 percent of Republicans favor such a program, compared to 69% of Democrats and 68% of independents.

Among those who have children in public schools, 75 percent favored a voucher program. Among those in nonpublic schools, the support was higher, about 78 percent. Those without kids enrolled in school right now showed about 68 percent approval for the program.

As far as the concept of school choice, pollsters asked specifically about giving parents the right to use tax dollars designated for their child’s education in whatever public or private school best suited their needs. There, support was not as high as the scholarship program, but was still strong, with about 68% of respondents favoring the concept.

Here, the strongest support by age group came from those age 35 to 44, of whom 72 percent voiced support.

Here, about 76 percent of Republicans, and 77 percent of Republican primary voters, favored the school choice concept, while 64 percent of Democrats felt the same.

The poll still found a plurality of voters favor traditional public schools, just over 30 percent. But nearly 70 percent favor some other option. Almost 22 percent favor a private secular school, around 19 percent a private religious school, more than 13 percent a public charter school, about 11 percent home-school and 6 percent some type of virtual school.

The just-released poll was conducted Sept. 21-24 and sampled 2,014 U.S. registered voters. Pollsters report a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.