New National Poll Shows Growing Momentum for School Choice as 2016 Race Kicks Off

Nearly 70% of Americans express support for issue;
Poll Finds Clinton and Romney Still Sporting Big Leads

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Federation for Children (AFC), the nation’s voice for educational choice, today released the findings of a new national poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Beck Research showing that nearly 70 percent of Americans support school choice. The poll comes on the eve of National School Choice Week and one year before the first votes are cast in the 2016 Presidential race.

“The findings of this poll reflect what we saw in the 2014 midterms and what I am seeing in communities across the country – a demand from parents for more options in deciding how their children are educated,” said Kevin Chavous, AFC’s executive counsel. “Educational choice through opportunity scholarships and charter schools provide these options.  As communities from New Orleans to Milwaukee to Miami have learned, educational choice is an immediate solution for parents who have children trapped in underperforming schools. Americans overwhelmingly believe that a ZIP code should not dictate a child’s future.”

Chavous cited other signs of school choice momentum – the resounding victories of prominent school choice advocates in the 2014 elections and a growing sense that national education unions are losing their influence with voters.  Teachers unions spent at least $80 million in 2014 to express opposition to candidates supportive of such education reforms – and lost nearly every race.

Chavous, a Democrat, former Washington, DC, City Councilman and one-time mayoral candidate, urged his party to recognize the importance of the survey’s results.  “As the 2016 primary fights begin, education reform is certain to take center stage – especially as a number of Republican candidates tout their records supporting expanded parental choice. As educational choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century, I urge the candidates in my party to recognize the shift in public opinion and embrace parental choice by putting the needs of students first.”

Deborah Beck of Beck Research said, “The poll clearly shows widespread support, among voters of both political parties as well as independents, for school choice. Any public official – or potential candidate for President — who ignores these numbers does so at their own peril.”

Chavous and Beck released the findings at the press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Thursday, January 22nd, at 10:30 a.m. ET. Click here to watch the full press conference

Five key findings from poll:

  • 69 percent support the concept of school choice, including 45 percent who strongly support it, while 27 percent oppose it.
  • 63 percent support private school choice, when those surveyed were asked if they support, “opportunity scholarships, also known as school vouchers.”
  • 76 percent support public charter schools, with only 20 percent opposing it.
  • 54 percent of those surveyed believe that giving parents more choices of schools will improve the education system.
  • 65 percent believe choice and competition among schools improves education.
  • 62 percent believe we need to make major changes to the ways that public schools are run

Democrats surveyed were asked which possible presidential candidates they would support if their primary or caucus were held today.

65%       Hillary Clinton
10%       Elizabeth Warren
7%          Joe Biden
2%          Bernie Sanders
1%          Jim Webb
1%          Martin O’Malley

Republicans surveyed were asked which possible presidential candidates they would support if their primary or caucus were held today.
32%       Mitt Romney
18%        Jeb Bush
9%          Rand Paul
6%          Ted Cruz
6%          Scott Walker
5%          Chris Christie
3%          Bobby Jindal

The poll, conducted January 14-18 surveyed 1,800 likely voters, including an 800 national sample, on questions related to educational choice, vouchers and charter schools.


American Federation for Children is the the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.

Kevin P. Chavous is executive counsel and a founding board member for the American Federation for Children. A noted attorney, author, and national school reform leader. A former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.’s Education Committee, Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous is chair emeritus of the Democrats for Education Reform and a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Debbie Beck is president of Beck Research LLC, a public opinion research firm. Over the past fifteen years, she has provided research and strategic advice to political campaigns, national advocacy organizations and corporations. She has led research programs for Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), Stand for Children, StudentsFirst and SOS Michigan. She has conducted extensive research on school reform, the Common Core, No Child Left Behind and previously provided polling expertise to Democratic elected officials.