Thursday, March 17, 2011

Poll: SC voters oppose vouchers 2-to-1, want to improve schools

One of the nation's pre-eminent polling and research firms released a poll earlier this week on South Carolinians' attitudes toward vouchers, public education, job creation and other things. It turns out that the list of South Carolinians' priorities and the list of lawmakers' priorities is a mirror image of one another, if you put the mirror atop the list rather than beside it.

The pollster was Greensberg Quinlan Rosner, and they called 400 South Carolina adults during the first week of March. Their report is pithy but offers sufficient data and analysis to show that Gov. Nikki Haley's "The Movement" message and tour -- the series of pro-Haley rallies being held this week and next -- plays well to her base but doesn't speak to the mass of South Carolinians.

On vouchers, for example, a high priority for Haley and Education Superintendent Mick Zais, two out of three citizens say no: "Only 33 percent of South Carolina residents support a plan to “allow students and parents to choose a private school to attend at taxpayer expense,” compared to 64 percent of residents who oppose this plan."

Although South Carolina residents are opposed to private school voucher programs, they do believe there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve the quality of education in South Carolina. When read a list of proposals and asked “how much each would do to improve the quality of education” 79 percent of residents said increased parental involvement would do “a lot,” 60 percent said the same about improving teacher training, 55 percent about reducing class sizes, and 54 percent about expanding early childhood education. Only 25 percent of residents said providing private school vouchers would do a lot.

Plus, it appears voters aren't feeling Haley's "Movement" and wish that she would "move" the state in a different direction.


The new survey also found that South Carolina residents are unhappy with the way things are going in the state. When asked whether they believe things are going in the right direction or are off on the wrong track, only 31 percent responded that things are going in the right direction compared to 54 percent who said things were off on the wrong track.

In addition, voters see their priorities for the state legislature as creating new jobs and improving South Carolina schools. After being read a list of things the Governor and State Legislature could focus on 39 percent said creating jobs and 25 percent said improving schools, should be the top priority, while only 15 percent said reducing government spending, 11 percent said improving health care, 3 percent said cutting taxes, 3 percent reducing crime, and 1 percent protecting the air, land and water. An additional 3 percent said they did not know which of these should be the priority.

When more than half a state's people believe their new governor and legislature are taking their state in the wrong direction, diligent leaders might sit up and take note; here in South Carolina, leaders take it as assurance that things are all right. After all, the most important poll is the one they conduct for several months during election years, and it includes only one question: "How much will you contribute to my campaign?"

Message to South Carolinians: There are better alternatives, but putting better alternatives in office requires that we register and vote.

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