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New Survey Finds Education is Top Political Issue for Young Americans

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 13, 2016 2 min read

A survey of Americans age 18-30 reports that education is the most important issue for them when considering which political candidates they will support, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The “GenForward” survey, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research with responses from nearly 2,000 individuals, asked them to select the three most important issues to them when considering candidates. Education was selected as a top-three issue by 31 percent of all those surveyed.

Results were also broken down by responses from African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites, who were asked about a variety of public policy issues. Among those four groups, African-Americans were the most likely to select education as a top issue—35 percent did so—while whites were least likely to single out education:

However, Asian-Americans were more likely than any other group to select education as the single most important issue for them among those presented—15 percent of them did so, compared to 13 percent of both African-Americans and Hispanics. Eleven percent of all young Americans picked education as the single top issue.

It’s worth pointing out that the survey doesn’t really delve into K-12 issues. Asked whether they supported free tuition at public colleges, one of the key policies backed by Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, most respondents indicated that they did: 52 percent said they strongly support it, and 24 percent said they somewhat support it. Many of the questions focus on the presidential candidates and their positions, but they also deal with public policy issues ranging from the terrorist group ISIS to the economy.

A poll from the Pew Research Center released earlier this month found that 66 percent of registered voters thought education was a “very important” issue for their voting decisions in 2016. That may seem like a high percentage, although that number put education only eighth on the list of voters’ concern, significantly behind the economy, terrorism, and foreign policy (see chart at the right from Pew).

K-12 education hasn’t gotten much attention during the 2016 presidential race. The two presumptive major-party nominees, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate executive Donald Trump, have yet to release comprehensive and detailed plans for public schools, although Clinton has discussed her views on specific K-12 issues.

According to an accompanying AP story, the GenForward survey drew on a sample of individuals “designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population.” The GenForward survey is designed to highlight how race and ethnicity shape young Americans’ views.

The survey of 1,965 adults was conducted last month, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. Ninety-one percent of respondents completed the survey on the internet, and 9 percent did so on the phone.

Read more about the GenForward survey results below:


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