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Voters say parents deserve control of child’s education

Seventy-eight percent of minorities say they're more likely to support a pro-school choice candidate
January 29, 2020


RALEIGH, N.C. – Today the Civitas Institute, in partnership with EdChoice, released its annual School Choice Civitas Poll findings. This education-focused poll asked registered voters to weigh in on a variety of issues related to school choice and personal education preferences. A second survey, exclusively consisting of minority voters, was also conducted.

The first several questions in the survey were reserved for parents of K-12 students. Of this sub-set, two-thirds of respondents’ children attend a traditional public school. Charters and homeschools were the second most common school type (11 percent each).

Discernible differences emerged among Republicans and Democrats on several school choice issues:

– Republicans (12 percent) were four times more likely to send their child to a religious or parochial school than Democrats (3 percent)

– Democrats (12 percent) were more than twice as likely than Republicans and unaffiliated voters (5 and 6 percent, respectively) to say that the government–rather than a child’s parent or guardian–is best suited to determine where a child should attend school

– The top reason Republicans (18 percent) gave for opposing school choice was, “it hurts public schools financially.” The top reason Democrats (23 percent) gave for opposing school choice was, “it encourages de facto segregation.”

Despite these differences, the unity around several core aspects of school choice were undeniable:

– Support for the Opportunity Scholarship, which provides vouchers for low-income families, was definitive:

Republican Democrat Unaffiliated
70% 67% 62%

– A plurality of Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters said that the most compelling reason for school choice was that it gives families the ability to, “choose the best educational option.”

– An overwhelming majority from all three political identifications said that they agreed with the statement, “Parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school.” (Republicans, 86 percent; Democrats, 79 percent; unaffiliated, 79 percent)

“No matter the political background, people want choice,” said Bob Luebke, director of policy at Civitas. “The strong support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program among Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated is something progressives and the Left would do well to take note of. Gov. Roy Cooper’s desire to end the popular voucher program, puts him at odds with his own constituencies and threatens the hope for a better future for thousands of families.”

An increasing number of school choice advocates are making light of the governor’s personal and policy inconsistencies.

“It’s apparently OK for Gov. Cooper to send his daughter to a private school to get a better education,” declared Luebke “but poor families — many of whom are stuck in failing schools — don’t deserve an option out?

A second survey, focused exclusively on the opinion of minority voters provide additional insights for policymakers, education reformers, and other interested parties:

– Of those surveyed, 84 percent said they agreed with the statement: Parents should have the ability to choose where their child attends school

– Over three-fourths (78 percent) favor the Opportunity Scholarship Program

– Sixty-three percent favor charter schools

– A total of 60 percent said they believe state lawmakers need to do more to expand educational options for families, with 78 percent saying they are more likely to support a candidate who supports school choice programs

“Poor and minority children are trapped in some of the most challenged schools, it’s no surprise why minority parents embrace school choice,” added Luebke. “Individuals and organizations that oppose those opportunities, are going to be confronting a lot of angry parents. It’s already happening.”

Even a cursory glance at the education landscape in North Carolina will show that the school choice movement has evolved significantly over the past decade.

In 2011, the state removed the burdensome charter school cap that held back education entrepreneurship in a market where demand for innovative approaches to K-12 education regularly exceeded supply. In 2013, the General Assembly enacted the Opportunity Scholarship Program, providing low-income households with a voucher to offset the cost of private school tuition. That year also saw the enactment of a special needs scholarship program designed to address the challenges children with disabilities might encounter. And in 2017, the state’s first ESA program was enacted, providing education savings accounts to students with special needs.

General survey toplines
General survey crosstabs

Minority oversample toplines
Minority oversample crosstabs

Methodology:  The sample size for the survey is 800 registered voters in North Carolina and the margin of error is +/-3.46% at a 95% confidence interval, meaning that if this survey were repeated, results would not vary from the population by more than 3.46 percentage points 19 times out of 20. In addition to the n=800 main sample, 150 interviews were conducted with registered voters who are non-white. These interviews were combined with non-white respondents from the main sample for an oversample of n=300 non-white voters. Responses were gathered via landline interviews conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology and online interviews conducted with a representative panel of voters. Demographics were adjusted to reflect the population from which the sample was drawn. The survey was conducted January 20 – 22, 2020 by Harper Polling. The total percentages of responses may not equal 100% due to rounding.

Founded in 2005, the Civitas Institute is a Raleigh, NC-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit policy organization that fights to remove barriers to freedom so that all North Carolinians can enjoy a better life. 


For questions, or to arrange an interview, please contact Brooke Medina, communications director, at

Civitas has conducted live-caller voting in North Carolina since May 2005, and we are the only public policy organization offering statewide independent, nonpartisan data on a regular basis. Our polls have provided vital insights on what North Carolina voters think of the leaders and issues facing the state and nation.

Founded in 2005, the Civitas Institute is a Raleigh, NC-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit policy organization committed to advancing conservative ideas and shrinking the size of government. Civitas fights to eliminate government barriers to freedom so that North Carolinians can live a better life.

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