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The Education Department Is a Little More Popular Than ICE, New Survey Finds

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 02, 2019 2 min read

The public’s opinion of the U.S. Department of Education, while low compared to other federal agencies, is evenly split, the latest survey by the Pew Research Center finds, with almost no partisan gap between how Democrats and Republicans view the agency.

However, the numbers released Tuesday represent a decline in the Education Department’s favorability ratings from Pew’s poll last year. And just like in 2018, the department rated close to the bottom when the nonprofit organization asked people to give their views of various federal agencies. In fact, among the 16 agencies included in the 2019 survey, only Immigration and Customs Enforcement is view less favorably than the Education Department.

Here are the Pew survey results from Tuesday for different agencies:

We reached out to the Education Department for any comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.

In 2018, 53 percent viewed the Education Department favorably, compared to 42 percent who had an unfavorable view of the agency. That split (and this year’s too, for that matter) was an improvement from where the agency stood toward the end of the Obama administration.

In 2015, the department was under water, with half of respondents telling Pew they had an unfavorable view of the Education Department and 44 percent giving the department a favorable rating. By that time, many Democrats had soured on President Barack Obama’s signature education initiatives.

The public’s view of ICE was not included in Pew’s 2018 survey.

We mentioned earlier that there’s less of a partisan divide over the Education Department in this year’s Pew data. However, that’s due to eroding support among Democrats in the last few years, while Republicans’ view of the department has held pretty steady:

Related point: While U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hasn’t polled well since her confirmation in 2017, she’s outlasted several high-profile cabinet picks such as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ex-Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. DeVos herself has admitted that President Donald Trump hasn’t prioritized education policy. But she’s rolled back several Obama administration initiatives related to civil rights, lobbied for expanding school choice, and has fought (unsuccessfully) to reduce her department’s budget, as well as the agency’s regulatory footprint.

Those moves, combined with her deep roots in conservative politics, have likely helped her standing with Republicans and with the president.

For its 2019 survey, Pew contacted 2,004 adults from Sept. 5-16, with a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.


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