A recent nationwide survey of teachers by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution revealed Texas Governor George W. Bush as their first choice for the next President of the United States, with almost as many undecided. Senator John McCain was preferred by 14.4 percent, former Senator Bill Bradley by 11.9 percent, and Vice President Al Gore by 11.1 percent.
“This stands in stark contrast with the October endorsements for Al Gore by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers,” noted Christian N. Braunlich, president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. “Clearly, teachers themselves have not yet made up their minds–but the teachers unions have tried to make up their minds for them, and are spending members’ dues to support one candidate over another.”
The October endorsement of Gore was not entirely surprising, given that NEA members alone made up 10 percent of the delegates at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. However, the recent survey shows that many of teachers who belong to the unions–which perpetually support the Democrat front-runner–are not of one political mind.
The survey also revealed that 92 percent of survey respondents believe the NEA and AFT should give their members a vote before endorsing candidates. As an example, Braunlich pointed to the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, which gives members a vote in determining that union’s endorsement. A Web site organized by the group, at www.eddemocracy.org, allows teachers to sign a petition demanding a right to vote before making endorsements.
The survey, released on January 21, asked 4,286 teachers nationwide about their Presidential preference and whether they believed teacher union members should have a vote before their union issues an endorsement. Approximately 32 percent responded, for a total of 1,358 responses.
Christopher Prawdzik is an education research fellow with the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution in Arlington, Virginia.