With the general election looming, voters’ concerns about rising gas prices and the sagging economy trump education as a campaign issue, even as more Americans believe the nation’s schools are getting worse, according to a national poll released by the Public Education Network.
In fact, education is slipping as a campaign issue. Two years ago, when many governorships and state legislatures were up for grabs, education ranked as the most important issue in a similar poll conducted by the Washington-based group, a network of community-based organizations that work on school improvement in low-income areas. During the 2004 presidential election, education ranked second, behind the economy.
This year, education ranked third, the new poll found, with 12 percent declaring it the most important issue, compared with 22 percent who cited gas prices and 19 percent who cited jobs and the economy as the most important issue. Education ranked ahead of health care, taxes, crime, and homeland security.
Source: Public Education Network
Even parents who have school-age children—a group that typically puts school issues near the top of the list—ranked education as third. However, researchers found that education is a top concern to one demographic: young black adults.
Overall, only 10 percent of voters said a presidential candidate’s stance on education is one of the “most important” to their votes, though 38 percent deemed it “very important.” Sixty percent said they want to hear more about education from the candidates.
The poll, released last month, was conducted by the Washington-based Lake Research Partners of 1,200 adults in May. Financed by the New York City-based MetLife Foundation, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
A version of this article appeared in the July 16, 2008 edition of Education Week