- Republicans and Democrats Both Back Education Savings Accounts
- Support for ESAs Is Bipartisan, Spans North Carolina and Crosses ideology
- Will Strong Support Lay Foundation for Legislation?
Civitas polls voters nearly every month on the important issues of the day. If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Democrats and Republicans disagree on just about everything. There is one thing, however, on which they can agree: Education Savings Accounts.
Education Savings Accounts – or ESAs as they are commonly known – are taxpayer-funded accounts that parents can use to help pay for the educational expenses of their children. ESAs empower parents to determine how and where their child is educated. They provide children access to quality educational opportunities. Simply stated, ESAs give hope to children.
And that’s something Democrats and Republicans both seem to agree on. Today five states offer ESA programs. Their growing popularity makes it likely that number is likely to increase.
The March Civitas Poll separately surveyed 500 likely Democrat and 500 likely Republican primary voters on a variety of topics (See below for poll data and sources). The poll’s margin of error was 4.38 percent. The poll asked the following question:
A new program to help families and students is being proposed in many states. Education Savings Accounts – or ESAs as they are commonly known – allow state funds to be used by parents to create a personal account to pay for K through 12 education expenses including: tuition, tutoring, testing, fees and books. Would you say you support or oppose an Education Savings Account program?
The results are as interesting as they are similar. First, Democrats and Republicans both support ESAs by significant and virtually identical margins, 54% and 55% respectively. The levels of opposition are also similar. Thirty percent of Republicans oppose ESAs; 28% of Democrats oppose them.
The levels of support were also virtually identical. Our poll asked respondents to describe their support of ESAs as either “strong” or “somewhat.” Republican support was divided 33 percent “strong” and 21 percent “somewhat.” ESA support among Democrats was divided the same way: 34 percent and 21 percent respectively. Opposition to ESAs was similarly divided. Among Republicans, 19 percent of Republicans described their opposition as “strong”; 11 percent of Republicans said they “somewhat” opposed ESAs. Among Democrats, 17 percent described their opposition as “strong” while 11 percent said they “somewhat” oppose ESAs.
Source: Civitas Poll, March 2016
Table I (below) provides additional data on Republican and Democratic primary voters by geographical regions, ideology and race. A review of crosstabs information produced some interesting findings. Support for ESAs was highest for Republicans in the Triangle (57%) and for Democrats in the Southeast (65%). Surprisingly, liberals in each party had the strongest support for ESAs: 70 percent of liberal Republicans supported ESAs, followed by 59 percent of liberal Democrats. If we look at race, blacks in each party had the strongest levels of support for ESAs, by a wide margin. Among Republican primary respondents, 76 percent of black respondents supported ESAs, compared to 52 percent of white respondents. Likewise, among Democrats 61 percent of black Democrats supported ESAs, compared to 52 percent of white Democrats. Support also holds across regions of the state.
|Support for ESA by NC Geographical Region||Ideology||Race|
Source: Civitas Poll, March 2016
Those who oppose ESAs might point out that it’s only one survey and the question only queries primary voters. That’s true. Are these views indicative of Republicans and Democrats? Let’s look at the results from previous ESA questions.
Last fall Civitas asked 500 registered voters a similar question about ESAs. It read:
A new program to fund education is being proposed in many states. Education Savings Accounts – or ESAs as they are commonly known – allow state funds to be used by parents to create personal account to pay for K through 12 educational expenses, including tuition, tutoring, testing, fees and books. Would you say you would support or oppose an Education Account program?
How did voters respond? Responses broke down as follows: 63 percent supported ESAs; 30 percent opposed ESAs; 8 percent didn’t know or didn’t respond. The figures don’t add to 100 percent because of rounding. But that’s better than two out of three respondents supporting ESAs. Support for ESAs by geographical region was strong across North Carolina, ranging from a low of 59 percent in the Piedmont to a high of 70 percent in the Southeast, with support in all other areas in the low sixties.
Support by party registration was also extremely high: 66 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Independents. Those are very healthy numbers. If we divide responses by ideology, we found that 61 percent of liberals supported ESAs, as did 58 percent of moderates and 68 percent of conservatives. Finally, 72 percent of black respondents support ESAs, as did 59 percent of whites and 64 percent of those labeled “other”.
So are responses from the March and October polls atypical? Or, do they truly represent how North Carolinians think about the subject? To answer that question, we analyze a question from last June on ESAs. It reads:
Recently, Nevada became the fifth state to approve Education Savings Accounts for students, commonly called ESAs. ESAs are government authorized savings accounts that place government funds in an account for families and allow parents to use the funds for approved expenses as tuition, books and tutoring. In general, do you favor or oppose the idea of Education Savings Accounts.
Again, respondents strongly supported ESAs by better than a 2 to 1 margin, with 58 percent of respondents supporting ESAs, 27 percent opposing and 15 percent undecided. Also again, support for ESAs was strong across all regions, ranging from a low of 49 percent in Charlotte to 66 percent in the Triangle. It should be noted of the four remaining regions, all four had support levels at 56 percent or above: Piedmont-Triad, 56 percent; Western Carolina, 58 percent; Northeast, 60 percent; and Southeast, 62 percent.
An examination of results by party Identification, ideology and race is similarly encouraging. Of those who identify as Republicans, 56 percent supported ESAs. Among those who identify as Democrats, 63 percent favor ESAs, and among Independents, 53 percent favor ESAs. Switching to ideology, support for ESAs is again high, with 64 percent of liberals and moderates favoring ESAs, along with 54 percent of conservatives. And finally, breaking down support by race, 69 percent of blacks favored ESAs, as did 54 percent of whites and 64 percent of “others.”
So what does this all mean? Public support for ESAs is real, strong and bipartisan. All parents – regardless of political affiliation or ideology – want their children to have access to quality educational opportunities. The data also show support is often strongest among minority communities whose families often lack access to quality schools and educational opportunities.
Polling tells us repeatedly that parents want to be able to control what their children learn and where they go to school. Education Savings Accounts offer an effective and popular vehicle for making those choices a reality. The popular support ESAs enjoy provides a unique opportunity for the legislature to move forward and craft historic and bipartisan legislation to benefit all students and families in North Carolina. It’s time for ESAs in North Carolina.
March 2016 Primary Poll, PowerPoint: click here.
GOP-ESA Crosstabs, March 2016: click here.
DEM-ESA Crosstabs, March 2016: click here.
Poll PowerPoint, November 2015: click here.
Crosstabs, November 2015 Poll: click here.
June 2015 PowerPoint Presentation: click here.
Education Crosstabs, June 2015: click here.