Poll Finds Growing Support for Expanded Federal Spending on Early Education

By Lillian Mongeau — October 20, 2015 2 min read
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A new national poll shows a growing appetite among voters for a federal investment in expanding early-childhood education, with 76 percent of respondents saying they would strongly support (50 percent) or somewhat support (26 percent) such a proposal. This is the strongest support seen in the annual poll since it was launched in 2013.

“For the first time in our three years of polling, American voters’ top priority is making sure children get a strong start in life, a concern equal to improving the overall quality of public education,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group.

This year’s poll was again commissioned by the group and conducted by Washington, D.C.-based public opinion polling firms Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies. Eight hundred registered voters responded to landline and cellphone-based surveys between Sept. 1 and Sept. 5. The voters who responded were distributed proportionally through the country and were demographically representative of the electorate. For the first time, the poll included questions focused on the upcoming election and parsed the data in ways seen as particularly relevant to presidential candidates.

I tend to find numbers much easier to read and comprehend in a list, rather than buried in a bunch of text, so I’ve pulled some of the most interesting ones below:

  • 72 percent of respondents said the government should be doing more to ensure children start kindergarten with necessary skills.
  • 88 percent of respondents agreed (66 percent strongly) with the statement “Access to quality early-childhood education is not a luxury, but a need for many families.”
  • 89 percent of respondents ranked “making sure children get a strong start in life” as important (49 percent said “extremely important”) to strengthening the country’s middle class. Only “improving the quality of public education” ranked as high.

And here are some of the election-specific numbers you might find interesting:

  • 54 percent of voters said they would hold a more positive view of a presidential candidate who expressed interest in spending federal money public early-childhood education.
  • 6 percent of voters said they would hold a less favorable view of a presidential candidate who supported such spending.
  • 79 percent of respondents from swing states said they would support a proposal to increase federal spending on early-childhood programs. (Swing states included: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.)
  • 59 percent of Republicans said they would support a proposal to spend more federal money on early-childhood education, though only 41 percent of Republicans said they thought it was a good idea

If you want more, take a look at this PowerPoint containing the complete survey results and the exact wording of the pollsters’ questions.

Graphics courtesy First Five Years Fund.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.