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CAMBRIDGE, MA – Both Republicans and Democrats can take comfort in the latest findings about political independents contained in the most recent nationally representative survey released today by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University (PEPG). More political independents lean Democratic than lean Republican, but the views of independents on educational issues appear closer to those ones articulated by Republicans than those traditionally espoused by Democrats.
When asked for their political affiliation, 41 percent of all those interviewed in May 2012 said they were independents, as compared to 34 percent who said they were Democrats and 25 percent who said they were Republicans. Further, 52 percent of the independents said they leaned toward the Democratic Party, and 40 percent said they leaned toward the Republican Party, with the rest saying they did not lean in either direction.
But 56 percent of independents thought teacher unions had "done more harm than good," 54 percent supported school vouchers, and only 34 percent favored raising teacher salaries once they had been informed about average salary levels in their state.
“With Barack Obama and Mitt Romney running neck-in-neck,” observes PEPG director Paul E. Peterson, “the nation’s eyes are trained on independent voters, who will likely decide the presidential election. Romney’s education plan may not be unattractive to this group.” Just one-third of independents report that President Obama has done an “excellent” or “good” job of handling education issues, while the rest assigned him a “fair” or “poor” rating.
No issue divides Republicans from Democrats as sharply as their views on teacher unions; in the survey, 71 percent of self-identified Republicans say unions have a negative impact on schools, while only 29 percent of self-identified Democrats take that position.
Other key findings from the survey include:
The full findings from the sixth annual PEPG survey conducted in May 2012 is available on the home page of www.educationnext.org. Also available is an article interpreting the key findings, “Reform Agenda Gains Strength: The 2012 EdNext-PEPG survey finds Hispanics give schools a higher grade than others do,” by William G. Howell, Martin R. West, and Paul E. Peterson, which will appear in the Winter, 2013 issue of Education Next.
About the Public Opinion Survey
The Education Next-PEPG survey was conducted by the polling firm Knowledge Networks during April and May of 2012. The survey interviewed 2,993 Americans, including a nationally representative sample of 1,727 and over-samples of Hispanics, African Americans, parents, and teachers. Detailed information about the survey protocols is available online at www.knowledgenetworks.com/quality/.
About the Authors
William G. Howell is professor of American politics at the University of Chicago. Martin R. West is assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and deputy director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University. Paul E. Peterson is the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. The authors are available for interviews.
About Education Next
Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform. Other collaborating institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit: www.educationnext.org.