The U.S. Department of Education, thanks in large part to Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been in the news quite a bit over the last year or so. So what do Americans think about the department after a banner year for coverage?
A new poll from the Pew Research Center released earlier this month found that 53 percent of those surveyed view the Education Department favorably, compared to 42 to percent who view it unfavorably. Those may look like pretty good numbers. But when you compare the favorable/unfavorable numbers for nine other federal departments and agencies, the Education Department comes in dead last when it comes to favorable ratings. The U.S. Postal Service, by contrast, gets a favorable rating from 88 percent of those polled, while the Environmental Protection Agency gets 60 percent and the Department of Justice gets 59 percent. The Education Department also has the highest share of Americans who view the agency unfavorably among those 10 departments and agencies Pew asked about.
If you look into the Pew numbers a little more closely, something else emerges. The partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to how they view the Education Department is smaller than for some agencies, but larger than for others. And when it comes to how they view several other parts of the federal government, Democrats’ view of DeVos’ department plunges dramatically, while there is a smaller drop-off for Republicans. Take a look:
DeVos herself has done very poorly in public opinion polls since she took over as secretary, compared to other Trump adminstration officials.
However, keep something in mind: Based on other surveys, the public’s view of the Education Department may have improved recently. Here’s Pew’s poll results about various federal departments and agencies released in November 2015 under the Obama administration:
The 2015 poll found that 51 percent of Democrats or those who lean Democrat approved of the Education Department, while just 36 percent of Republicans or those who lean Republican did so. Several federal departments have seen their approval ratings spike recently. The IRS, for example, went from being viewed less favorably overall than the Education Department in 2015 to more favorably in 2018.
The 2018 Pew poll surveyed 1,009 adults age 18 and over, and 405 were interviewed on a landline, while 604 were interviewed on a cell phone. The poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
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