Republicans could use the issue of school choice to win over minority and millennial voters in 2016, a new poll showing the issue remains very popular with the electorate suggests.
Seventy percent of likely voters are supportive of school choice the poll, commissioned by pro-school choice American Federation for Children (AFC), finds. Support is even higher in minority groups and with millennials. Seventy-six percent of blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics and 75 percent of millennials support school choice.
Just 24 percent of likely voters oppose school choice, the poll found. The results indicate slightly more support than last year, when the poll found 69 percent of likely voters support school choice.
The poll’s wording, however, is phrased in a manner that encourages support for school choice. The poll defines school choice as “giv[ing] parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs.”
Nevertheless, the strong majorities seen in the poll suggests that school choice is undeniably popular.
The results indicate a possible path to voters for Republicans in 2016. Sixty-four percent of the poll’s respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who backs school choice.
The poll also surveyed respondents on particular types of school choice, which registered varying degrees of popularity, though all of them received majority support. A whopping 83 percent of people supported providing public scholarships for special needs students, so they could access outside tutoring and other services, and 75 percent backed the creation of public charter schools.
Only 53 percent supported school vouchers, where parents are given vouchers that can be used to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious ones.
AFC argued that the results demonstrated that presidential candidates should spend more time on the topic of K-12 education, and that it was a potential path for Republicans to win over coveted Hispanic and millennial voters.
“Latino and millennials, two emerging voting blocs, support school choice in strong numbers, and voters are more likely to support a candidate who supports school choice,” AFC communications director Matt Frendewey said in a statement. “These factors will be critical as we move into the 2016 election cycle.”
AFC board member Kevin Chavous, himself a Democrat and former Washington, D.C. city councilman, said there were already examples of Democrats losing close races because they lost non-white voters on the issue of school choice.
“In 2014, the teachers’ unions anti-school choice message was rejected by voters and in close races like Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s support for school choice helped to double his support among African American voters, which was crucial to his victory,” Chavous said in the statement.
If AFC’s assessment is correct, it could be a potential vulnerability for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. During her presidential run, Clinton has shifted left on educational issues, criticizing charter schools and doing more to align her rhetoric with anti-school choice teachers unions.
The survey was conducted by Beck Research from Jan. 19-24, and had a sample size of 1,100 likely November 2016 voters. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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