Education hasn’t gotten much traction so far in this presidential-campaign year, but voters in some swing states see it as a top-tier issue, a new survey finds.
Among those surveyed by the New York City-based College Board, 67 percent called education “extremely important to them personally” in this year’s elections for president and Congress. That puts education up there with government spending (69 percent), health care (67 percent), and the federal budget deficit (64 percent).
And the issue is up for grabs, said Geoff Garin, the president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a polling organization that works with Democratic candidates and that conducted the survey for the College Board along with North Star Opinion Research, a firm that works with GOP candidates.
Right now, Democrats have an edge, with 44 percent of the voters in the states surveyed saying that the party reflects their education priorities. Thirty-one percent feel that way about Republicans, the survey found. The survey was conducted March 15-20, with 1,839 registered voters in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The survey has a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points.
“This is really open turf,” Mr. Garin said of voters’ leanings on education issues. “Either party can distinguish itself with the voters on education.”
Female voters appear to be particularly interested in education. According to the survey, 75 percent of women voters in swing states ranked education as an issue very important to them, compared with 58 percent of men. And 70 percent of women who identify themselves as independents rank education as an extremely important issue.
“Republican candidates always face a gender gap in national elections,” said Whit Ayres, the president of North Star Opinion Research. “An emphasis on education is one of the keys for Republican candidates to address a gender gap.”
The survey has implications for education funding, too: 78 percent of the respondents said increased funding for education is necessary, while 21 percent said it’s not necessary.
A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2012 edition of Education Week as Voters Seem Keen on Education, New Survey Finds