Common-Core Polls Explore Support by Political Viewpoint

By Catherine Gewertz — May 05, 2014 2 min read
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Two new polls poke into Americans’ attitudes about the common-core standards by political viewpoint, and come up with different conclusions. One finds relatively small differences between Democrats and Republicans, while the other finds big gulfs exist on the issue by political-party affiliation.

A poll released by the University of Connecticut finds much stronger support for the common core among Democrats and liberals than among Republicans and conservatives. It was based on a telephone survey of about 1,000 randomly selected adults.

Asked whether the common core is “good policy,” here’s how results broke down:

Similar patterns showed up when people were asked about “the idea of having one set of national education standards.”

Big political differences also showed up when respondents were asked “how education should work in the U.S.” Respondents of both political parties came down in favor of setting the same expectations state to state, but the idea finds much stronger support among Democrats and liberals than among Republicans and conservatives.

Another poll came up with very different results. It was based on an online survey of about 1,000 likely general-election voters, and on an oversampling of 500 Republican primary voters and 500 swing voters.

This survey, conducted by Republican strategist and pollster John McLaughlin, and commissioned by the pro-common-core Collaborative for Student Success, found that 65 percent of all voters approved of the common core, while 29 percent disapproved. Among voters considered likely to vote in a Republican primary, 59 percent approved and 35 percent disapproved, a level of support that’s much greater than one might assume by tracking headlines about opposition bubbling up in some state legislatures.

Voters “across party lines prefer adoption of the Common Core State Standards over the status quo,” the collaborative said in a press release accompanying the survey release. The findings challenge “a prevailing political assumption among conservative activists: that common-core bashing is a winner with conservative Republicans.”

In a telephone call with reporters, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he thinks the common core dovetails with his party’s values because it prepares students for a competitive marketplace, emphasizes the outcomes of education, and “because we believe in accountability.” He added: “It fits with who we are.”

Not every McLaughlin finding showed rousing support for the common core, however. Support for the common core didn’t clear 35 percent among all respondents when asked whether they approved of the standards or not. And among the two-thirds of Republican primary voters who have heard of the standards, 41 percent opposed them and 33 percent favored them. In a statement accompanying the poll release, however, the Collaborative for Student Success interpreted the results this way: “That surprisingly small eight-point margin in attitudes indicates the issue isn’t nearly as polarizing among the two parties as some conservative activists would like to believe.”

The results are based on an online survey of 1,000 likely general-election voters, and a subsequent “oversampling” of 500 Republican primary voters and 500 swing voters.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.