Education Funding and the Fiscal Negotiations in Washington
Americans vastly overestimate the amount the Federal government spends on education—and they’d like to see that amount increased, not cut.
Americans estimate that roughly 15% of the Federal budget is devoted to education at all levels. In fact, the correct figure is closer to 2%. Even though in their minds education’s share of the budget is something like 7 times greater than it actually is, few think that’s too much to spend on education. Only 24% believe too much is spent on education, while 43% believe we don’t spend enough on education, 32% say what they believe is spent now is about the right amount.
There is a constituency for education in America today, not a constituency in the sense of elections and politics, but a constituency that uses education services, believes in the goals and values of education, and believe education should be protected in the current budget negotiations.
Today, 43% of all households include a student: 22% have a student in Pre-K or elementary school, 15% have children in high school, but beyond that, 10% are in a 4-year college, 4% in graduate school, 4% in a 2-year college program, and 3% in a technical/vocational school, with many households boasting students at more than one level of education.
Most Americans (55%) say education programs should be protected from automatic cuts in spending, more than the number who would extend such protection to tax cuts for corporations (13%), Bush-era tax rate reductions for those with incomes over $250,000 per year (21%), or defense spending (39%). Only Medicare (69%) and tax credits for low-income families (58%) are defended by a greater number of Americans in this poll.
If it came down to one or the other in order to reach agreement, 57% say the cuts should come from defense spending versus 43% who say the cuts should come from education programs.
The public’s support for education funding stands on a foundation of strong beliefs when it comes to the value of education. In this poll, about three-quarters or more of all Americans endorse the belief that education:
• Is important to future economic growth (86% agree, including 54% who strongly agree)
• Moves people into the middle class (77% agree, 39% strongly)
• Makes it possible for more people to attend college (76% agree, 38% strongly)
• Prepares students to be productive citizens (75% agree, 42% strongly)
• Helps students get good paying jobs (74% agree, 38% strongly)
• Improves America’s global competitiveness with countries such as China (73% agree, 42% strongly)
The constituency for education funding extends even beyond the 43% of those in households that currently use education services in America, to the much larger percentages who believe in the value of those services. That explains why Americans want education spending to be preserved and not subject to sequestration or automatic budget cuts.
About the YouGov poll:
Respondents were selected from YouGov’s PollingPoint panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by age, gender, race, education, and region) was selected from the 2005–2007 American Community Study. Voter registration, turnout, religion, news interest, minor party identification, and non-placement on an ideology scale, were imputed from the 2008 Current Population Survey Registration and Voting Supplement and the Pew Religion in American Life Survey. Matching respondents were selected from the PollingPoint panel, an opt-in Internet panel.
Report courtesy of Thomas Riehle of YouGov.