Families & the Community

Republicans’ Confidence in Public Schools Plummets, Gallup Poll Finds

By Evie Blad — July 14, 2022 3 min read
Image of a small U.S. flag in a pencil case.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Republicans’ confidence in public schools plummeted to an all-time low this year, while Democrats sustained higher levels of support that spiked in 2020 as schools responded to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, new polling finds.

Forty-three percent of Democrats responding to a June poll conducted by Gallup said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in U.S. public schools, compared with 14 percent of Republicans. That number was 29 percent among respondents who identified as Independents. The poll was a nationally representative sample of 1,015 adults collected June 1-20.

Overall, 28 percent of respondents said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools, a decline from 32 percent in 2021.

The findings come as K-12 school and district leaders navigate divisive conversations about addressing issues like how to teach U.S. history and how to address sensitive subjects like race, gender, sexuality, and student safety in classroom discussions and school policies.

Republican politicians have increasingly included those subjects in messaging for November’s mid-term elections. The tensions could create challenges for leaders navigating everything from education policy to family engagement.

The poll asked about public schools alongside other public institutions, like Congress and the military.

Here are three key findings about schools from the Gallup poll.

1. American’s confidence in public schools has declined for decades alongside other institutions

Americans’ confidence in public schools on Gallup’s poll peaked in 1975, two years after the organization began measuring trust in a list of institutions. That year, 62 percent of respondents said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools.

Overall confidence in schools has continued a general trend of decline over the years, briefly spiking upward to 41 percent in 2020, when Gallup surveyed respondents a few months after schools suddenly closed in response to COVID-19 concerns, spotlighting the role they play in communities.

Public confidence in schools has declined alongside confidence in other institutions, Gallup found. Public schools had the sixth highest percentage of respondents’ confidence on a list of 16 institutions.

Asked about a menu of options, the highest percentages of respondents expressed confidence in: small business at 68 percent, the military at 64 percent, and police at 45 percent. Institutions with the lowest levels of support were Congress at 7 percent, television news at 11 percent, and big business at 14 percent.

An important caveat: Other surveys, including an annual poll conducted by PDK International and Gallup, have consistently found that higher percentages of Americans approve of their own local public schools than the education system in general. In a 2021 version of the PDK Poll, for example, 63 percent of parents and 54 percent of all adults, gave their local public schools an A or B grade for their pandemic response. In contrast, only 4 in 10 adults gave an A or B grade to public schools’ handling of COVID-19 nationally.

2. A dramatic drop in Republican support for public schools

The percentage of Republican respondents to the Gallup poll who said they had “very little” or “no” trust in public schools rose to its highest level this year, at 50 percent.

The decline comes as activists promote bills that ban teaching of “divisive concepts” and after sometimes-partisan responses to extended school closures during the pandemic.

3. Softer declines among Democrats and Independents

While fewer Democrats and Independents expressed confidence in public schools in this year’s annual poll, the rates of support among those respondents have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Families & the Community What Happens to the Lost-and-Found Mound at the End of the Year?
Most schools deal with lost-and-found piles as the school year ends. Some work with outside partners to recycle items for students in need.
5 min read
Dark gray laundry basket full of childrens' items with a white sign that reads "Lost Property"
iStock/Getty
Families & the Community Opinion What Student Impacted You Most as a Young Teacher?
Paying attention to students and their families can provide some of the most valuable lessons to teachers.
2 min read
Mike Nelson reads to his students.
Mike Nelson reads to his students.
Mike Nelson
Families & the Community Q&A How These District Leaders Turned Family Engagement on Its Head
Two Leaders to Learn From share insights on what family and community engagement entails.
7 min read
Families & the Community Video ‘A Welcoming Place’: Family Engagement Strategies for Schools (Video)
Schools that enlist parents as partners see positive results. Here's how to do it.
1 min read