44th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll Shows a Nation Divided Over Public Education Issues

Americans have a number of conflicting viewpoints in their preferences

for investing in schools, going head-to-head on issues like paying for

the education of the children of illegal immigrants, according to the 2012

annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public


There are clear partisan divides over whether children of illegal

immigrants should receive free public education, school lunches, and

other benefits, with 65 percent of Democrats versus 21 percent of

Republicans favoring it. Overall, support for providing public education

to these children is increasing. Forty-one percent of Americans favor

this, up from 28 percent in 1995.

Americans are also more divided across party lines than ever before in

their support for public charter schools, with Republicans more

supportive (80 percent) than Democrats (54 percent). However, approval

declined overall to 66 percent this year from a record 70 percent last

year. Additionally, the public is split in its support of school

vouchers, with nearly half (44 percent) believing that we should allow

students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public

expense, up 10 percentage points from last year.

Though Americans clearly have opposing stances on many education issues,

when the poll — conducted annually by Phi

Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup

— asked Americans whether they believe common core state standards would

provide more consistency in the quality of education between school

districts and states, 75 percent said yes. In fact, more than half of

Americans (53 percent) believe common core state standards would make

U.S. education more competitive globally.

Ninety-seven percent of the public also agrees that it is very or

somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, and almost two

of three Americans (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to

provide funds to improve the quality of urban schools. Eighty-nine

percent of Americans agree that it is very or somewhat important to

close the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic


And though Americans are almost evenly split in their support for

requiring that teacher evaluations include how well students perform on

standardized tests, with 52 percent in favor, they are in agreement

about increasing the selectivity of teacher preparation programs. In

fact, at least three of four Americans believe that entrance

requirements into teacher preparation programs need to be at least as

selective as those for engineering, business, pre-law, and pre-medicine.

“While Americans are divided on many issues regarding the direction of

our education system, they stand united in agreement on some very

important issues,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK

International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “Most important,

it is reassuring to know that, despite the recognition that our schools

need improvement, more than 70 percent of Americans do have trust and

confidence in our public school teachers.”

The 2012 poll also reveals that President Barack Obama holds a slight

lead (49 percent) over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (44

percent) as the candidate who would strengthen public schools. Overall,

50 percent of Americans view the Democratic party as more interested in

improving public education in the U.S., while 38 percent view the

Republican party as more supportive.

PDK, a global association of education professionals, has conducted this

poll with Gallup annually since 1969. The poll serves as an opportunity

for parents, educators, and legislators to assess public opinion about

public schools. The 2012 findings are based on telephone interviews

conducted in May and June 2012 with a national sample of 1,002 American


More poll data is available at www.pdkpoll.org.