Poll: Education Cuts Voters’ Top Concern

school kidsA new survey by pro-education groups showcases deep concerns about cuts to the state’s schools. They hope to pressure lawmakers to consider education funding a top priority during the budget negotiations this week.

The poll, conducted by the Democratic firm Lake Research, found that education and public school funding was voters’ top concern, beating out jobs and the economy 28% to 27%.

77% of likely Pennsylvania voters are concerned about cuts in funding for PA’s public schools including 48% who are very concerned. Women are disproportionately interested in the issue: 85% of female respondents are concerned with the cuts, including 55% who are strongly concerned.

The poll was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) and the Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY). Both of them favor more funding for public education.

The goal of the poll according to Sharon Ward, the Director of the PBPC was to “bring attention to education during the current budget negotiations.”

Voters have a favorable impression of public schools 56% to 35%. They view their own area’s public schools favorably 69% to 20%.

As with any poll commissioned by advocacy groups or conducted by a partisan pollster, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Commissioning groups have discretion over the phrasing of questions, and the full cross-tabulations are rarely released.

For example, the pollster read respondents a description of the pro-and-con arguments over education funding, and the summary of arguments made by education funding advocates is longer and more cogent than the case presented on behalf of Republicans.

(The GOP’s case being, mainly, that education funding cuts were precipitated by expiring federal stimulus funds).

Respondents favored the advocates’ message 55% to 30%.

Presented with a variety of proposals that included increases to the sales tax or income tax, respondents favored more funding.

The pollster surveyed 604 likely 2014 general election voters from June 19 to June 23. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%.

40% of respondents identified as Democrats, 33% as Republicans and 21% as independents or members of a third party.

4 Responses

  1. Chris – It’s nothing personal. 100% of PoliticsPA articles about internal polls use the “grain of salt” warning. Thank you for being transparent about the poll questions.

    There are plenty of reasons why an internal poll should be taken with a grain of salt, including this one.

    In the example you cite:

    1. The pollster left out THE primary tagline that Corbett and Republicans have been using: “this is the highest amount of state money going into basic education in our state’s history.”

    2. The “pro” message is 10% longer than your “con” message.

    3. The “pro” message names no individual politicians, your “con” message names Corbett, who has his own baggage independent of this issue.

    4. Characterizing Corbett/GOP with the word “opponents” is not neutral.

    Other issues with the poll:

    1. The “which issue matters most question” is the 2nd in the poll. It immediately followed a “what’s your opinion of” question about public schools. It’s unsurprising that the schools answer fared so well in question 2.

    2. The specific tax-proposals the pollster tested were loaded with positives, .

  2. With respect to Chris Lilienthal’s comment:
    State budgetary cuts always come down to the lesser of two evils – there is little fat there and no one wants to cut ANY necessary service. But, in my opinion, when faced with cutting education or anything else…education should always come out on top.

    Education vs. economy? education wins.
    Education vs. medicare? education wins.
    education vs. healthcare? education wins.

    It’s an investment in our future. A vote not to support education is, at its core, a vote to stall progress.

  3. Yes, it doesn’t jive when politicians campaign on a platform of “pro education” and then recommend deep and wide cuts to school budgets, including a massive reduction in teacher salaries, which are already ridiculously low.

    Maybe this survey shows that Americans are beginning to realize the doublespeak of the most inarticulate, yet still somehow successful, career politicians.

  4. PoliticsPA Writer Nick Field offers very little to support his contention that these poll results should be “taken with a grain of salt.” Lake Research Partners based the opposing messages used in the poll on statements made by Governor Corbett himself. Mr. Field mentions only one part of the message related to expiring federal stimulus funds but fails to tell readers that the full message also states that “education remains a top priority for Governor Corbett, who has increased education funding by one point two-five billion dollars since taking office.” Despite hearing this very favorable message toward the Governor’s education policies, voters participating in the poll favored a statement to restore school funding by 25 points over one that argues Pennsylvanians cannot afford to raise additional revenue. We have released the full wording of pro and con messages to be as transparent as possible, which you can find at http://pennbpc.org/sites/pennbpc.org/files/Education-Poll-Memo-and-Questions-6-24-2013.pdf.

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