The Pollsters Respond: More on ESEA as a Voting Issue

Earlier this month, Eduflack opined on a survey released by the Alliance for Excellent Education about reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the need for focus on high schools, and the role both topics may play on this November’s upcoming congressional elections.  While I found the findings interesting, I worried that we were reading a little too much into the numbers, giving the average voter a little too much credit for what they think they know about ESEA and its future direction.

I offered up the counterpoint to the data originally compiled on the Alliance’s behalf by Lake Research Partners.  The good folks over at Lake Research Partners — namely Celinda Lake and Chris Matthews — wanted to set the record straight and ensure that we (and I mean that collectively, dear ol’ Eduflack included) don’t misconstrue the findings.  So I’m going to yield the rostrum to Lake and Matthews to offer that clarification.  So without further ado …

“Eduflack made some assertions and questions about the recent AEE poll that we would like to respond to:

1. The poll finds that 8 in 10 voters want to see NCLB changed in the reauthorization of ESEA, while 11 percent say NCLB should be left as it is. Eduflack questions this finding, asking: “Are we to believe that virtually all likely voters recognize that ESEA is up for reauthorization this year; and that 80% understand the components of the current NCLB bill well enough to know that the current law needs to be altered?”

The findings of the poll should not be construed in this way at all. The poll does not indicate that voters know that ESEA is up for reauthorization this year. As AEE and the pollsters asserted at the press conference introducing the poll, if we had to guess, we would agree with Eduflack and say that most voters don’t know this. However, we certainly can say from this survey that when ESEA is introduced to voters in the survey, with concise and accurate information, that ESEA reauthorization is seen as important to voters. And when it comes to NCLB, nearly 90 percent of voters in the survey have an opinion on the NCLB policy: 47% have a favorable opinion and 44% an unfavorable opinion. We agree with Eduflack, in that most voters do not fully understand all of the intricate components of the current NCLB bill, we see in this in the focus groups we conduct throughout the country. Yet, this research shows that they do have a base of knowledge about NCLB, which combined with their own experiences and views that public high schools are in urgent need of improvement, lead us to be confident that voters can weigh-in on whether NCLB should be changed or just reauthorized as it is.

So, to answer Eduflack’s question on whether the survey findings “assume an education policy knowledge among likely voters that is far out of whack with reality” — they do not. We can say with confidence that the survey met voters where they were in terms of knowledge, gave them a small, neutral, and unbiased amount of information about ESEA, and then asked voters to evaluate and make a choice based on that information as well as all the other knowledge and experiences they already have about public education and NCLB.

2.Eduflack also questioned whether “education could really takeover the economy as a key voting issue in November.” AEE and the research team of Lake and Bellwether have not made that assertion, and we would not make it as education does not rank before the economy right now in any polls we have seen. The new AEE poll does allow us to say, however, that education is an important issue and when voters do focus on the issue it is seen as important factor in how they will evaluate Congressional incumbents this fall. The AEE poll also shows that voters link the quality of public high schools and the state and progress of the national economy and our ability to compete in the global economy as well.”

Anyone else want to weigh in?

14 thoughts on “The Pollsters Respond: More on ESEA as a Voting Issue

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