College Board/National Journal Poll

When It Comes to Expanding Pre-K, Americans Are Divided by Party and Race

Poll finds broader support for reducing class sizes and raising teacher salaries.

First Lady Michelle Obama says goodbye to pre-kindergarten students after visiting their classroom at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, a Chinese-immersion, International Baccalaureate, elementary school, in Washington on March 4, 2014.
National Journal
Ronald Brownstein
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Ronald Brownstein
April 16, 2014, 7:07 a.m.

What policies would do the most to in­crease op­por­tun­ity for chil­dren? The latest Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll finds re­l­at­ively broad con­sensus on what op­tions provide the most ef­fect­ive points of lever­age — but stub­born dif­fer­ences re­main between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans, and between whites and minor­it­ies.

As the fol­low­ing tables show, minor­it­ies are con­sist­ently more likely than whites, and Demo­crats more likely than Re­pub­lic­ans, to be­lieve that each of eight pos­sible in­ter­ven­tions would be a “ma­jor factor” in help­ing more young people suc­ceed.

The gaps between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans are widest on in­vest­ing more in health ser­vices for preg­nant wo­men and young chil­dren, provid­ing more col­lege aid, and ex­pand­ing ac­cess to pre-K. Still, a sol­id ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans say more col­lege aid would help and even a slight ma­jor­ity of them be­lieve ex­pan­ded pre-K could ex­ert a ma­jor in­flu­ence on in­creas­ing op­por­tun­ity. The par­tis­an dif­fer­ences are much nar­row­er on re­du­cing class sizes in K-12 schools, in­creas­ing salar­ies to at­tract more tal­en­ted teach­ers, and ex­pand­ing vo­ca­tion­al-edu­ca­tion op­tions after high school.

Lar­ger ver­sion

Viewed through a ra­cial lens, whites are not­ably less en­thu­si­ast­ic than minor­it­ies about ex­pand­ing pre-K or health ser­vices for preg­nant wo­men and very young chil­dren — though in each case just over half of whites be­lieve the idea could have a ma­jor im­pact. In­ter­est­ingly, whites are also much less en­thu­si­ast­ic than minor­it­ies about “provid­ing more fam­il­ies pub­lic money to help at­tend private, rather than pub­lic, schools.” Both whites and non­whites are most op­tim­ist­ic about the im­pact of ex­pand­ing vo­ca­tion­al op­tions, with in­creas­ing col­lege aid a close second.

Gen­er­a­tion­al dif­fer­ences were telling, too. At least three-fifths of adults un­der 30 saw ma­jor im­pact in every op­tion ex­cept re­du­cing class sizes or provid­ing pub­lic aid for private schools. With these young adults, in­creas­ing col­lege aid, ex­pand­ing vo­ca­tion­al op­tions, and re­quir­ing more aca­dem­ic­ally chal­len­ging middle-school and high school courses topped the list. Seni­ors gen­er­ally ex­pressed sim­il­ar pri­or­it­ies, but far few­er of them — only about half in each case — ex­pec­ted ma­jor im­pact from ex­pand­ing pre-K or health ser­vices for preg­nant moth­ers and young chil­dren.

The Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,271 adults, in­clud­ing over­samples of Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, His­pan­ics, and Asi­an-Amer­ic­ans, from March 18-26. The in­ter­views were con­duc­ted by land­line and cell phone in Eng­lish and Span­ish. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.9 per­cent­age points for the en­tire sample, and lar­ger mar­gins for ra­cial sub­groups.

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