Ask a slanted question

Opinions on vouchers vary widely depending on how the question is phrased.

According to the annual survey conducted by Gallup for Phi Delta Kappa, an educators’ group, 54 percent of the public oppose school vouchers; 42 percent favors “allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense.” Yet 43 percent would be more likely to support a pro-voucher candidate, 37 percent less likely. Some 57 percent of public school parents said they’d use a full voucher to send their children to private school; 38 percent would stick with public school and the rest are undecided. If the voucher paid half the tuition cost, 45 percent said they’d choose private school; 50 percent would choose public school.

The very pro-voucher Friedman Foundation (that’s Milton and Rose Friedman, after all) hired Wirthlin to do its own voucher opinion survey with slightly different wording.

Half of the sample was asked the more negative PDK question, “do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” Only 41 percent supported school vouchers when presented this way.  The other half was asked the more neutral question “do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds?” The support was significantly higher with 63 percent supporting school vouchers.

According to the Friedman/Wirthlin survey, about 60 percent of Americans (68 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats) would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting school choice. Nearly 70 percent of African-American Democrats surveyed would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting school choice; overall, 80 percent of African-Americans surveyed favor school choice.

The PDK survey focuses on No Child Left Behind, finding opposition to the testing provisions of the law — as described by the pollsters — but strong support for the law as a whole. Here’s Gadfly’s analysis. And Eduwonk, which says all sides slant the poll questions.

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Comments

  1. bluemount says:

    Is it any surprise, the first thing we learn to do with objective statistics is skew them to support our opinion.

  2. mike from oregon says:

    It’s kind of the same old thing, the way you phrase your question. If you want certain results, you phrase it a certain way. I want to prove you beat your wife so I ask, “When did you stop beating your wife?” No matter your answer it will fit my statistics to show how prevaliant wife beating is. A more honest question, “Have you ever beat your wife?” – won’t show what I want my survey to show.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If you can’t beat them, join them, and run your own survey with your own outragously slanted questions.

  4. superdestroyer says:

    School choice is the biggest red herring that the right has these days. Whenever I ask anyone how it would work, I get the kindergarden version of Milton Friedman with the answer, “the market will create more schools.”

    If anyone was paying attention, they would notice that the demand of college prep private schools exceeds the supply now. In addition, parents are not going to be willing to take a chance on a start up school down at the corner when the neighbors kids are going to “elite, white, college prep country day.”

    Also, school choice imlies long planning horizons. Thus, school choice hurts families who move around and rewards old money established families.

  5. superdestroyer wrote:

    Thus, school choice hurts families who move around and rewards old money established families.

    Yet the first voucher program in the country was driven by a black, welfare mother who finally lost patience with the public school system and support for charters is higher among the poor and especially high among poor, urban blacks.

    It would seem that the people you say are least likely to benefit from school choice are most in favor of it.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    Look at Honolulu. It has almost 50% of its K-12 aged children in private schools. Yet, the Marine Corps put out a letter about the difficulty in getting officers (those older college educated Marines with school age children) to go to Hawaii due to the extreme difficulty in finding quality schools to attend. Why?

    Because to apply to the best private middle and senior high schools, a family needs to apply a year or more in advanced. That leaves out those Marine families who move into and out of the area.

    A good case can be made for very poor families in bad school districts (like the District of Columbia) will benefit from vouchers. However, the middle class and those at the edges of upper middle classes (like those in the counties that surround Washington, DC) will be hurt by vouchers because the college prep private schools will be shut off to them but the public schools will collapse at the same time?

    Voucher proponents always say that with vouchers, parents can send their children to where the parents decide. I always correct them to say, the parents can send their children where can get their children admitted. There is a huge difference between the two statements.

  7. superdestroyer wrote:

    However, the middle class and those at the edges of upper middle classes (like those in the counties that surround Washington, DC) will be hurt by vouchers….

    Why would they be hurt by vouchers? A voucher is a voluntary instrument. Don’t want to be bothered? Don’t go get one. Happy with the school your kids attend? Don’t go get one.

    Look at Honolulu. It has almost 50% of its K-12 aged children in private schools.

    If that’s true then the school system has even worse problems then most big city school districts. Detroit sends a bit over 10% of it’s kids to non-public schools, although percentage of teacher’s kids going to non-public schools is +30%, and the DPS is a mess from almost every standpoint.

    I do wonder what factors send the percentage up to 50%? Got to be pretty horrible schools to get that many parents that upset.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    allen,

    your first commnet proves my point. If vouchers start for the middle classes in the suburbs, then every parent will go looking for the elite, private, all white college prep private school because the parents will not want to be preceived as “doing nothing.” Yet, the supply of elite college prep schools cannot grow quickly but vouchers will spike the demand quickly.

    Most parents in the middle class white suburbs like their college prep public high schools. Vouchers will give those schools the reputations as the schools for the “loser” kids whose parents are “doing enough” for their children. Probably the only college prep students left in such schools will be the parents of asian students who either cannot afford college prep private schools and who do not see the local christain high school as a true alternative for their children.

  9. Yet, the supply of elite college prep schools cannot grow quickly but vouchers will spike the demand quickly.

    and

    Most parents in the middle class white suburbs like their college prep public high schools

    Well, which one is it? Either the demand will be great or it won’t. If middle class white suburban parents like their college prep high schools why would there be a spike in demand for voucher-accepting schools?

    Also, to repeat myself, why are almost 50% of Honolulu K-12 kids in private schools? Just how awful are Honolulu schools? Some links please.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    To explain my point. In the current system in the uppermiddle class suburbs today, most families are happy with the performance of their public schools. Yet, I argue that if vouchers programs start for the upper middle class, the push will be for parents to begin to look for private schools. That will cause many parents to try to get their children into elite, college prep private schools. The demand for private high schools will go up without a corresponding increase in supply (because you just cannot create an elite high school quickly). Thus, parents will feel that they have to get their children into private schools because only the “loser” parents will let their children stay in the public schools.

    The public school in Hawaii are bad because almost no state or local leader sends their children to them. The politicans see the local schools more as a jobs programs for the teachers unions than as an asset for the community. As a result Hawaii has schools that compete with Mississippi for the worst in the nation (for many of the same reasons).

    The heritage foundation reports that Hawaii has the highest percentage of any state in private schools.

    Look at
    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Education/Schools/hawaii.cfm

  11. The public school in Hawaii are bad because almost no state or local leader sends their children to them.

    You sure you don’t have it the wrong way ’round?

  12. Superdestroyer says:

    Allen,

    No. The first rule of leadership is do not ask other people to do things you would not do yourself. State leaders would never tolerate the lousy schools if their own children had to attend. But if their own children are at Punahoe or Iolani, then the state and local leaders feel very comfortable making the public schools a jobs programs for the teachers unions.

  13. But if their own children are at Punahoe or Iolani, then the state and local leaders feel very comfortable making the public schools a jobs programs for the teachers unions.

    Do your (I assume you live in Hawaii) state and local leaders also call for support of public schools, the important role public schools have in ensuring a just, equitable society and the danger charter schools represent to the mission of public schools?

    I guess if the people of Hawaii are satisfied being represented by hypocrites then who am I to criticize?