Ill Democratic Omens in Education Polls

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin visits Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia on January 20.


Scott P. Yates/Associated Press

American voters have long trusted Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to education. That’s changing – and the evidence is in two new polls, one by a teachers’ union and one by a democratic organization.

The American Federation of Teachers commissioned a poll of likely voters in battleground states and found that 39% of respondents trust Republicans more when it comes to education issues, versus 38% for Democrats. Respondents said the #1 problem with public schools is that “education is too politicized.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten has repeatedly accused Republicans of politicizing classrooms. But respondents were more likely to say Democrats are “more responsible for politicizing education (and making education too much a part of the culture war)” than Republicans, 33% to 28%. More were dissatisfied than satisfied with “the say parents have over what their children are taught”. Voters were also significantly more likely to trust parents’ organizations (56%) and teachers (62%) “very much” or “quite a lot” than teachers’ unions (44%). Ms Weingarten nevertheless tweeted the poll, claiming that “extremist politicians are trying to drive a wedge between parents and teachers” while her union is “focused on investing in public schools and the essential knowledge and skills students need.”

The other poll was conducted by the Democrats for Education Reform in battlefield congressional districts. It found that Republicans were 3 points ahead on education overall (47% versus 44%), 9 points ahead on parents and 10 points ahead on minority voters.

Those results represent a seismic shift in support. As the group’s election memo noted, “this represents a sharp drop from before the pandemic, when Democrats had a double-digit educational advantage.” A 2017 Gallup poll pushed Democrats up 19 points on education.

Signals of the shift came in November when Virginia Gov. elected Glenn Youngkin. He beat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe by 2 points. Exit polls showed that education was the most important issue for voters, after jobs and the economy, and Mr Youngkin’s lead was 6 points among those who ranked education their top priority.

Republicans help Democrats by keeping quiet about education, as many have for years. But now the Democrats are in a bind over educational freedom. Mr. McAuliffe stuck to his anti-parent rhetoric while Ms. Weingarten stumbled around for him. Republicans would do well to follow Mr. Youngkin’s example and make themselves the parent party.

Mr. DeAngelis is a Senior Fellow with the American Federation for Children.

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Published in the print edition on July 23, 2022. Ill Democratic Omens in Education Polls

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