A new national poll shows that education has taken a back seat to rising gas prices and other pocketbook concerns. That's not all that surprising, given how little the presidential candidates have talked about education so far. But, interestingly, poll respondents ranked education as the third-most important issue, slightly ahead of healthcare.
The poll, which was released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Public Education Network, an association of education advocates, is one of the first to measure the nation's attitudes toward education in this election year. The findings were not very encouraging. Among the respondents, 22 percent expressed concern about rising gas prices, while only 12 percent were concerned about education. Respondents did, however, voice worries that schools are moving in the wrong direction and that key players in education—like businesses and the media—have become too disengaged. Specifically, 4 in 10 Americans said that the quality of public schools nationwide has declined, compared with 15 percent who said that schools were improving. Respondents were evenly split about No Child Left Behind and whether it has made schools better or worse. (This week, a separate report by an independent research group showed that most states have been making academic progress since the law took effect in 2002.)
The poll found some frustration with the presidential candidates. Six in 10 respondents said the candidates are focusing too little on education. Still, 48 percent of them noted that education is "very important" or "one of the most important" issues in helping voters decide whom to choose as president. The findings represent the views of 1,220 adults who responded to a national telephone survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.