Will the 2018 Cycle be the Year of Education?

For the last few cycles, the same political messages seemed to top every campaign’s polling – jobs, health care, and fiscal issues. And while in some states you might add another political football into the mix, such as immigration or energy, campaign ad after campaign ad featured the same top 3 issues in TV spots, direct mail, and digital flights from candidates running for every office imaginable. No wonder why voters are so fatigued.

However, there are signs pointing to a new top issue that might be emerging – and that’s education.

While campaigns have never shied away from talking about education in their campaign advertising, and many federal and statewide candidates would even put together policy platforms on the issue, education itself tended not to be a driving message aimed at moving voters.

But as we head into 2018, we’re seeing education quickly becoming a top issue among voters in states across the country. This is certainly due in part to the national attention education is receiving from the media following Randi Weingarten’s speech calling school choice supporters the “polite cousins of segregation.” However, it’s what’s happening at the state level that is really driving the intensity.

In Arizona, hot off the heels of Governor Ducey and the Legislature’s passing of a landmark education reform that is increasing school funding by an additional $3.5 billion, raising pay for public school teachers, and empowering parents with more school choice, including ESAs, American Federation for Children’s internal polling shows education being the #1 issue among all Arizona voters, including being the #1 issue with Democratic and Independent voters and the #2 issue with Republican voters.

Most Important Issue
(Open Ended)
All Voters Democrat Independent Republican
Education 39% 52% 43% 27%
Immigration 18% 7% 12% 31%
Economic 8% 5% 11% 10%
Health 8% 11% 5% 7%
Government 5% 5% 7% 3%
Environment 3% 3% 4% 2%
Other 12% 11% 13% 12%
DK/Refused 7% 6% 5% 8%
Poll Conducted May 15-18, 2017 amongst 645 Likely Voters, Margin of Error -/+ 3.86%

 

In Tennessee, a survey has emerged showing that education will be a driving issue in the 2018 gubernatorial contests. Conducted on behalf of SCORE from July 12-16, 2017, the poll asked 500 Republican and 500 Democratic primary voters the issue they most want addressed by the state’s next governor. With a 4.4% margin of error, education reform ranked second behind health care with Democratic voters, while Republican voters ranked education reform as being the third most important issue, just after the economy and health care.

This trend doesn’t stop there. Even in states like Illinois and Texas, where state leaders are in the midst of important education debates, education is dominating media headlines that will no doubt lead to more scrutiny – and more voter interest in the issue as we move into 2018.

While we’re still just over a year away from the midterm elections, it’s becoming increasingly clear that education will be on the minds of voters as they head to the ballot box. And 2018 very well could be shaping up to be the year of education in campaign politics.