American voters overwhelmingly support school choice programs, including younger voters and minority groups, a new poll has found.
The poll, commissioned by the American Federation for Children, a national education policy think tank, questioned 1,100 likely voters across the country about their support for school choice policies. According to the results, 70 percent of voters say they generally support school choice policies, and 42 percent “strongly support” choice. Voters of Hispanic descent and voters aged between 18 and 35, often referred to as “millennials,” support school choice policies at higher rates than the general population.
The survey was conducted by polling research agency Beck Research LLC and released on January 28.
Matthew Frendewey, national communications director for the American Federation for Children, says school choice supporters are more diverse than some may believe.
“Setting aside polling on party identification and the respective demographic crosstabs, in terms of strictly polling demographics, African-American voters are typically more open to school choice,” Frendewey said. “That support remains strong when drilling down on specific programs, like charters, vouchers, opportunity scholarships, etc.”
Frendewey says Hispanic families are also becoming more supportive of school choice policies.
“Hispanic families have traditionally trailed African-American support,” Frendewey said. “This was the first poll where we saw Hispanics mirror their support with African-American families.”
Mary Claire Reim, a research associate in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, says the poll’s findings are not surprising.
“School choice is extremely popular among minority and low-income families, because it is these groups who struggle the most to overcome the achievement gap present in our public schools and need alternatives,” Reim said. “Limitations on school choice directly prohibit families who do not have the means to attend private school from pursuing the best possible education for their child.”
Success in Washington, DC
Reim says the success of Washington, DC’s school choice program is further evidence of the popularity of choice among underserved demographic groups.
“Well over 90 percent of the participants in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, for example, are minority students, and parents and families have reported extremely high satisfaction rates with their schools of choice,” Reim said. “In fact, participation in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program led to a 21 percent increase in graduation rates. Minority and low-income families benefit immensely from school choice options, which is why growing support for such programs is to be expected.”
Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.
“Beck Research Memorandum: School Choice Survey Research Results,” Beck Research LLC, January 28, 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/beck-research-memorandum-school-choice-survey-research-results