What Does Common-Core Polling in Early Presidential Primary States Reveal?

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 18, 2015 3 min read
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It could be the most high-profile K-12 policy question accompanying the 2016 presidential race: How will candidates’ positions on the Common Core State Standards—GOP candidates in particular—affect their standing in the campaign?

An NBC News/Marist College poll of the common core in the three states with the earliest presidential primaries shows that at this early stage, the standards appear to be in good political standing among both Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, but it’s a different story in New Hampshire and South Carolina on the Republican side. And the views of self-identified members of the tea party might also surprise some veteran observers of common-core politics.

The poll focused on registered voters; registered Republicans or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a GOP primary or caucus; and registered Democrats or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus. They were asked the extent to which they would find a presidential candidate’s support of the common core totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable. Just under 900 registered voters overall were polled in each state, while in each state more than 300 registered Republicans (or those who prefer to vote in GOP primaries) and 300 registered Democrats (or those who prefer to vote in Democratic primaries) were also polled.

So what were the results?

• In Iowa, 65 percent of registered voters said they would find common-core support by a candidate to be totally or mostly acceptable, with 25 percent finding it mostly or totally unacceptable. In addition, 10 percent of voters said they were unsure. In the “potential GOP electorate” of registered Iowa Republicans—the group arguably more likely to find the common core distasteful—57 percent said they would find a candidate’s common-core support to be totally or mostly unacceptable, compared to 37 percent in the unfavorable category. Among the “potential Democratic electorate,” 73 percent of voters said they would find such support totally or mostly acceptable.

• It’s a different story for New Hampshire Republicans. While 56 percent of registered voters would find common-core support to be at least mostly acceptable, 47 percent of registered Republicans said the same, compared to 46 percent who would hold a candidate’s common-core support against him or her. That difference falls well within the poll’s margin of error of 5 percentage points as far as the potential GOP electorate. And 7 percent of those registered Republicans said they were unsure.

• The numbers were identical in South Carolina (47 percent would find it acceptable, compared to 46 percent who wouldn’t) as far as registered Republicans’ view of candidates who support the standards. In the Palmetto State, the margin of error was 4.5 percentage points; 8 percent of potential GOP voters said they were unure.

The poll also breaks down groups by more specific ideological categories. Tea party members are often viewed as the most vociferous critics of the common core, but in Iowa the majority of them (52 percent) found common-core support to be totally or mostly acceptable, compared to 46 percent who would find such a position totally or mostly unacceptable. That was also true in South Carolina by roughly the same margin. In New Hampshire, however, those identifying with the tea party overwhelmingly view common-core support unfavorably, with 59 percent who would find common-core support mostly or totally unacceptable, compared to 37 percent who would find it mostly or totally acceptable.

In all three states, those identifying as very-liberal-to-liberal found common-core support totally or mostly acceptable by significant margins in all three states. In fact, common-core support by a candidate was viewed more favorably by those voters than by moderate voters in the three states.

Below is a screenshot of the Iowa poll and how common-core acceptability breaks down among the various groups surveyed:

And view the complete report below:


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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.