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The 2008 Presidential Election and Trends in Opinions on Education. Annual Conference Celinda Lake. 202.776.9066 | www.lakeresearch.com | November 16, 2008. Presentation Overview.

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The 2008 presidential election and trends in opinions on education l.jpg

The 2008 Presidential Election and Trends in Opinions on Education

Annual Conference

Celinda Lake

202.776.9066 | www.lakeresearch.com | November 16, 2008


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Presentation Overview Education

  • In the 2008 election, voters voted overwhelmingly for change. Voters were pessimistic about the direction of the country and saw Barack Obama as the one who could turn things around. The issue agenda was dominated by the economy, though other issues like health care and education relate to the economy.

  • Americans have been dissatisfied with education throughout the Bush presidency and believe Bush has either made no difference or even made things worse. Obama starts off with a strong advantage on education, but Americans are looking for more action at the state or local level.

  • Voters are worried about the direction of schools both nationally and at the local level. However, only half say they are personally involved in their local schools. With the national agenda dominated by other concerns, efforts at the state and community level are necessary to keep education policy moving forward.

  • Messaging on education issues has to be both positive and realistic. We need to acknowledge that there are problems but focus on ways to fix them and how individuals can make a real difference. Americans believe that EVERY child has the right to a quality education and that EVERY American has a role in making that right a reality. Education is a core value, not just an issue.



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Even before all races have been called, the Democrats have solidified the majorities they won in 2006.

*Races in Alaska and Minnesota are still too close to call. Georgia’s Senate seat will be decided in a runoff.

**4 House races are still too close to call.


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Three quarters of voters say the country is off on the wrong track. This is a strong indicator of a desire for change, something voters believe President-elect Obama can bring.

Direction of the Country

Yes:

No:

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Two thirds of voters who believe the country is off on the wrong track voted for Obama.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Not surprisingly, Obama won change-oriented voters, but McCain had the advantage among those focused on experience and values.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Already, Obama has changed the mood of the country for the better. More than two thirds of Americans are proud or optimistic about an Obama presidency.

Source: Gallup Poll, Nov. 5, 2008, N=1,036 adults nationwide


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Again, nearly three quarters of voters disapprove of Bush’s job performance.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Obama overwhelmingly won the half of voters who strongly disapprove of Bush’s job performance, an indication that Bush’s poor ratings hurt McCain in his campaign.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Congress’s job rating is almost as bad as the President’s, again with nearly three quarters saying they disapprove of the job being done.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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However, Democrats, as the party in power for the last two years, still only narrowly lost those who strongly disapprove of Congress and won a solid majority of all other voters.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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More than 10% of voters in this election were first time voters, and more than two thirds of those voters chose Obama.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Issues voters, and more than two thirds of those voters chose Obama.


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The economy dominated this election. The war in Iraq, which in many ways was the deciding factor in 2006, has faded to a distant second among votes this year. The prevalence of economic concerns pushed other key issues, like education, off the agenda in the last weeks of the election.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Voters gave Obama the advantage on every top issue except terrorism. Obama’s support was especially strong among health care voters and those focused on the war in Iraq.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Health care is the top personal concern to voters – even ahead of jobs and the rising costs of consumer goods.

Additional concerns: government assistance (3% top/second concern), credit card debt (3%), nursing home care (1%).

Source: Partnership for Chronic Disease, conducted by LRP and VCR, n=1,500 LVs, Oct. 5-9. 2008


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Half of voters believe the state of the economy is poor, and Obama handily won these voters.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Looking at the second most important issue to voters, voters who disapprove of the war voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Changing Coalitions who disapprove of the war voted overwhelmingly for Obama.


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The gender gap narrowed slightly in this presidential election, with Obama winning both men and women.

+13

+1

In 2004:

Men: 44% Kerry; 54% Bush

Women: 51% Kerry; 48% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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The marital status gap opened up wide in this election. McCain won married voters narrowly, but Obama won unmarried voters by more than 30 points. The gap was especially noticeable among unmarried women, who made up a fifth of the electorate.

In 2004, unmarried women voted 55% for Kerry and 44% for Bush.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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McCain won white voters, voters of all other races and ethnicities supported Obama by wide margins. African Americans made up a larger percentage of the electorate than in 2004, and the Democratic margin among Latino voters quadrupled from what it was 4 years ago.

African Americans as % of Voters:

2004: 11%

2008: 13%

Latino voters in 2004:

53% Kerry

44% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Young voters delivered for Obama. One in four Obama voters are under 30. They made up a record 18% of the electorate and were twice as likely to vote Obama than McCain. While in 2004, Kerry only won among young voters, Obama carried every age group except seniors.

18-29 year olds in 2004:

54% Kerry, 45% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Democrats now enjoy a 7-point party identification advantage over Republicans, and Obama won a majority of independents as well. Since neither party has enough voters on its own to win, whoever wins independents carries the day.

In 2004, Independents voted:

49% Kerry

48% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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This advantage for Democrats among independents carried over to Congressional races as well.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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While conservatives still outnumber liberals, there is now a large constituency of moderates who solidly supported Obama in this election. Whether America is really now “center-right”, “center-left”, or “center-center”, Obama was the stronger candidate.

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Voters in cities and in the large constituency of moderates who solidly supported Obama in this election. Whether America is really now “center-right”, “center-left”, or “center-center”, Obama was the stronger candidate.suburbs supported Obama, while rural voters preferred McCain. This is a change from recent elections where Republicans have carried suburban voters.

In 2004, suburbanites voted:

47% Kerry

52% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008


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Regionally, Obama won in the East, Midwest, and the West, a region that is turning increasingly blue in recent elections. Republicans held the South, but by a narrower margin than in 2004.

In 2004

56% Kerry

43% Bush

48% Kerry

51% Bush

42% Kerry

58% Bush

50% Kerry

49% Bush

Source: National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2008



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Education in the Obama Administration Next Administration

  • Throughout the campaign, Obama talked about the importance of parental involvement and responsibility in their children’s education,and it is reasonable to expect that will be a significant part of any plan from the Obama White House.

  • Obama also wants to renew commitment to Head Start programs and early childhood education.

  • In his acceptance speech, he spoke of renewing the American Dream and opening the doors of opportunity for our children, two goals that cannot be achieved without education.


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While the economy dominates and education is not currently the most important problem to voters, they still give importance to the issue in their vote choice.

Source: Gallup Poll


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Americans have been net-dissatisfied with the quality of education in the U.S. for at least a decade.

Source: Gallup Poll


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Nearly three quarters of Americans believe Bush has made no difference or made things worse on education, despite his early intense efforts on No Child Left Behind.

Source: Gallup Poll, July 6-8, 2007, N=1,006 Adults nationwide


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The prestige of teachers remains high. Any reform efforts must take this into account and make them part of the solution.

Source: Gallup Poll


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Americans are increasingly in favor of reforming our current system, rather than seeking an alternative.

Source: Gallup Poll


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President-elect Obama has re-established a strong advantage for Democrats on the issue of education, and it remains to be seen what the new Democratically controlled federal government can do to improve the system.

Source: Gallup Poll


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Nearly two thirds of Americans want state leaders, not the federal government, to set national education standards. In our work since 9/11, we have found this is true for a few reasons. Voters thing the President has his hands full with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting terrorism. With the increased focus on the economy, this may be even more true today.

Source: Gallup Poll, June 14-July 3, 2008, N=1,006 Adults nationwide


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Americans also want education leaders, not just any political leaders, to weigh in. Even input from business leaders is valued over that of politicians.

Source: Gallup Poll, June 14-July 3, 2008, N=1,006 Adults nationwide


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What This Means for Education Policy political leaders, to weigh in. Even input from business leaders is valued over that of politicians.

  • In 2006, polling showed that education was tied with the war in Iraq as the top issue for voters. Today, education has dropped out of the top tier of issues.

  • Americans were not happy with Bush on education (after his early efforts), so Obama is already a change for the better. However, Americans are not looking for action from the federal level as much as from the state or local level.

  • Voters understand that politicians and elected officials have other issues that need attention, but education remains important to them. Over the next couple years, education advocates will have to make an extra effort to keep this issue at the fore.

  • At the same time, education can be an investment in the future, improving things for the next generation, and also a core value that is strongly related to the narrative of the Obama presidency.


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Current Attitudes on Public Education political leaders, to weigh in. Even input from business leaders is valued over that of politicians.


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The PEN Index political leaders, to weigh in. Even input from business leaders is valued over that of politicians.

  • The civic index was designed and implemented to measure a community’s perception of itself with regard to its public schools.

  • The index is made up of many indicators, and those indicators are collapsed into ten categories used as the general measurements of the index.

  • The Civic Index poll was originally developed in 2006. This is the second time it has been conducted with a national sample. In 2006, the Index was completed nationally and in four locations. This year, the Index has been completed nationally and in Paterson, New Jersey, and San Francisco, California.

  • The goal of the Index is to gain public input by listening to their concerns and their opinions about their schools locally and nationally. In that regard, PEN believes it is important to find out how voters feel about the schools in their community and what kind of responsibility they take for them. These attitudes are understood through the prism of public opinion because opinion and perception are what drive action—or lack thereof—on the part of community members.


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A plurality of voters believe schools in their community have stayed the same over the last few years. But, while attitudes have remained stable since 2006, the trends are ominous with “declined” gaining some traction. Adults are more negative toward schools nationally.

2006

Improved: 26%

Declined: 27%

Stayed Same: 39%

2006

Improved: 16%

Declined: 36%

Stayed Same: 35%

Darker colors equal intensity

Over the last five years do you think public schools nationally have improved, declined, or stayed about the same?

Over the last five years do you think public schools in your community have improved, declined, or stayed about the same?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Americans think people in their communities take responsibility for ensuring quality public schools. Attitudes have held steady since 2006. There is not as much intensity as there could be, but overall, the attitudes are positive.

2006:

A lot/Some 70%

Little/None: 26%

*Darker colors equal intensity

How much responsibility do you think people in your community take for ensuring there are quality public schools in your community – a lot, some, a little, or none at all.

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Similarly, respondents say that in the past year they have done something to support public schools in their area. In fact, slightly more adults say they have done something this year compared to 2006.

2006:

Yes: 54%

No: 40%

In the past year, have YOU personally done anything to support public schools in your local area?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Not surprisingly, three-quarters of parents report doing something to support public education, compared to about half of non-parents.

In the past year, have YOU personally done anything to support public schools in your local area?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Adults, however, make careful distinctions. Fifty-nine percent say they have done something to support public schools in their community, but only half say that means they are personally involved – a share that is up somewhat since 2006.

2006:

Involved: 47%

Not Involved: 52%

*Darker colors equal intensity

Honestly, how involved would you say you are in helping to make public schools better – very involved, somewhat involved, not too involved, or not involved at all?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Parents are also more involved than non-parents, but they, too, are more likely to say they have done something in the last year than to say they are personally involved.

Honestly, how involved would you say you are in helping to make public schools better – very involved, somewhat involved, not too involved, or not involved at all?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Americans are NOT hearing enough about education and are certainly hearing less about education this year than they have in past election years.

During the election campaigns this year, have you heard or seen more, less, or about the same amount on public education as you have in past years? (Asked of half the sample)

During the election campaigns this year, do you think the candidates are focusing too much, not enough, or about the right amount of attention on public education? (Asked of half the sample)

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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In many ways, public education was largely absent from the political debate in this election.

  • In the presidential primaries, education was hardly mentioned in the numerous debates held by each party.

  • In the middle of a heated primary season, the word education was mentioned only twice at a GOP debate in January. In a two hour debate in February between Sens. Clinton and Obama, education only came up 5 times – among Democrats who supposedly are more responsive on the issue.*

  • In the general election, a key question on education was reserved for the final moments of the final debate, having received hardly any mention up to that point – and in many ways it has been observed to have generated one of Obama’s better responses.

*From an op-ed by Wendy Puriefoy, CEO of PEN, in USA Today on February 27, 2008


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Americans believe there is a lack of accountability in the political system when it comes to public education. By two-to-one they believe elected officials are NOT held accountable. The Accountability measure is up somewhat for 2006, before Democrats took control of Congress.

2006:

Held accountable: 21%

Not held accountable: 72%

*PEN’s Give Kids Good Schools National Survey

Do you think most elected officials are held accountable for their actions on public education or they not held accountable?

Source: PEN National Index 2008, Conducted by Lake Research Partners


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Lessons from Recent Research on Education political system when it comes to public education. By two-to-one they believe elected officials are NOT held accountable. The Accountability measure is up somewhat for 2006, before Democrats took control of Congress.


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Give Kids Good Schools political system when it comes to public education. By two-to-one they believe elected officials are NOT held accountable. The Accountability measure is up somewhat for 2006, before Democrats took control of Congress.

  • This was was a campaign to get people involved in their local communities by studying current attitudes and behaviors and exploring was to get them engaged.

  • We needed messages that would encourage involvement. We needed to be positive so that people really believe they can make a difference.

  • However, we also need to be realistic. People need to know that there are problems that need to be addressed and—more importantly– that these problems can be fixed.


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What we learned political system when it comes to public education. By two-to-one they believe elected officials are NOT held accountable. The Accountability measure is up somewhat for 2006, before Democrats took control of Congress.

People believe:

  • EVERY child deserves a quality public education – not every child receives one

  • EVERY child deserves to go to a good public school – not every child has access

  • EVERY child can learn – maybe at a different pace, but every child is worth the effort

  • EVERY person in the community has a ROLE to play – “responsibility” is tough

  • LOCAL elected officials are accountable for quality public schools


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Respondents have mixed feelings when it comes to “do you personally feel responsible for public schools.”

Overall, respondents feel that responsibility for public schools is too much for one person to bear alone. They would much rather say they have a “role” to fill in making sure we have quality public schools.

Not surprisingly, parents generally feel responsible for the quality of public schools. However, even a few parents (mainly fathers) feel teachers and administrators have as much or more responsibility as they do.

Respondents find it somewhat difficult to assign responsibility for public schools to people other than parents, teachers, and legislators. Moreover, they believe if they themselves don’t take much responsibility, it is hard to hold someone else in their situation responsible.

Everyone has a role – which is different than taking responsibility.


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Our Opportunities personally feel responsible for public schools.”

People know:

  • Our public schools should be better than they are and they are frustrated that not every child receives a quality public education or goes to a good public school

  • Elected officials should be held accountable for the quality of the community’s public schools. There is, however, deep cynicism toward elected officials and some doubt that voters can hold officials accountable

  • People believe there is real power in numbers and in getting organized – THEY WANT HELP coming together to solve public education issues. However, they do not know where to find people who think like they do or what to do when they do find like-minded individuals. They want clear information to help them evaluate their community schools, elected officials, and activities they can take to make a difference


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What didn’t work - Race personally feel responsible for public schools.”

Overt references to race and ethnicity: Geography became the biggest determinant of whether schools in their community were good or bad. Schools in that community were good and schools in this community were bad – and that was determined by income, price of the homes, etc.

  • This reasoning was widely accepted and people believe children in the suburbs have better schools than children in rural or urban areas. The discussion, in most cases, around “urban” or “inner city” schools was tinged with racial undertones, but respondents resisted saying minorities had fewer good schools than whites.

  • Respondents are reticent to say race is a major factor in who has good public schools and who has less access to good public schools. White respondents were definitely the most reluctant to say race is a factor, but it was clearly an underlying issue in describing inner-city or urban schools.


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What didn’t work – Competition, Investment, and Democracy

Competitiveness: Voters are smart and have paid attention to the economic debate. First, they believe that we are losing jobs overseas NOT because our workers lack skills but rather because workers in other countries are paid less. Second, while they know some children in other countries go to good schools, they also know that NOT EVERY child goes to school – it is not a core principle in other countries, like it is here. Here, all children go to school, some go to great schools, some good, some mediocre – but the opportunity to go to school is a given right and that makes us unique.

Children as Investment: People want to see communities invest in public schools, but they do not see their children as an investment.

Democracy: Voters believe public education is a cornerstone of our democracy. However, it is weaker theme in motivating action.


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Strongest Messages Democracy

TWO strong message elements emerged:

  • Children are our future, and a majority of Americans believe that the next generation will not be better off.

  • Improving public education is so important that we must hold elected officials accountable

    Other elements:

  • Messages need to be positive – but we have room to be critical of schools

  • They want to see diverse children, in school settings – or settings that seem real and applicable

  • They like to see many children when appropriate and doing age appropriate activities

  • Positive reaction to the prominence of the website and the call to action


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The 2008 Presidential Election and Trends in Opinions on Education

Annual Conference

Celinda Lake

202.776.9066 | www.lakeresearch.com | November 16, 2008


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