Education Letter to the Editor

Voucher Backers’ Critique of Poll Rings Hollow

September 25, 2006 1 min read

To the Editor:

The pro-voucher Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation claims that the wording of a PDK-Gallup Poll question “misleads poll interpreters into thinking that the public opposes school choice” (“NCLB Seen as Largely Ineffective, PDK-Gallup Poll Finds,” Aug. 30, 2006).

The question read: “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” Since vouchers (or “school choice,” as voucher proponents describe them) specifically refer to using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools, the wording of the question appears to be straightforward.

But the Friedman Foundation would prefer to ask respondents, as it did in its own poll last year, “if they favored or opposed allowing students and parents to choose any type of school at public expense,” according to your article. As worded, that question would of course include public schools in other districts, which everyone knows are not required to openly enroll students from other public school districts. But that question apparently received 60 percent support.

In New Jersey, the state’s pro-voucher group, Excellent Education for Everyone, purchased a similar question in both 2001 and 2005 in polls conducted by the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University. It read: “Would you vote for or against a system of giving parents the option of using government-funded school vouchers to pay for tuition at the public, private, or religious school of their choice?” It, too, yielded 60 percent support, thanks to the word “public” in the question.

When I contacted the Eagleton pollster, he readily admitted that the question, as worded, did not accurately reflect whether New Jerseyans support spending public tax dollars on private and religious schools—which is the essence of a true voucher program.

Rather than malign the methodology of the PDK-Gallup poll, voucher proponents should take a long look in the mirror and question their own objectivity.

Stephen K. Wollmer

Associate Director for Public Relations

New Jersey Education Association

Trenton, N.J.

A version of this article appeared in the September 27, 2006 edition of Education Week as Voucher Backers’ Critique of Poll Rings Hollow