Juan Perez Jr. with help from Michael Stratford
June 21, 2022
MEET ‘THE NEW SWING VOTER’ — The state of American education is a growing concern for voting parents this year, and that offers a potential edge to candidates hoping to appeal across partisan lines in November.
— New polling released today by a top national charter school booster says education is now a more important political issue to parents and guardians of school-age children than it was in the past.
— In all, 83 percent of voting parents said education is more important to them. The trend was especially apparent among Black parents and parents of children with special needs, according to the national survey of roughly 5,000 parents conducted May 19–31 by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
— Voters’ education concerns traditionally take a backseat to economic and healthcare-related issues, particularly in federal races, even as school-centered worries grow in importance. Yet the latest poll also hints that voting parents have a significant interest in casting ballots for someone outside their own political party, as long as they agree with that candidate’s education platform. The pollster concluded parent willingness to vote for someone outside their party was high for all political affiliations but particularly strong among independent voters.
— Consider the timing of those opinions. As the United States commemorates slavery’s end inside its borders and estimates point to growing numbers of youth who identify as transgender, potent fights over race and sexuality continue to help animate campaigns in key states. But some Democrats say cultural concerns distract from what persuadable, education-motivated voters really want. Former President Donald Trump’s education secretary is meanwhile urging conservatives to promote school choice as part of their message.
— Looking ahead: The charter group said its poll suggests education could become a “single voter issue” among parents regardless of their party affiliation and underscores the budding significance of school-related concerns in this fall’s elections. Politicians might therefore have an incentive to broadcast a message that resonates with a broader spectrum of voters instead of just rallying their base.
— “The education voter is the new swing voter,” said Nina Rees, the charter alliance’s president and CEO.