Author(s): Paul DiPerna
The “Moms and Schools Survey” project, commissioned by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and conducted by Braun Research, Inc. (BRI), measures Americans’ views on area schools (district, charter, or private), school type preferences, and school vouchers. In this paper, released just ahead of Mother’s Day, we present data specific to “Moms” and “Non-Moms,” as well as national and regional response averages. We report response levels of public opinion. For some questions, we also expand discussion to examine differences of voter opinion (sometimes using the terms “net” or “spread”) and the intensity of responses.
How do moms – and the general adult public – grade the different types of schools in their communities? Where do they stand on the reform issue of school vouchers in K-12 education? We make an effort to provide some observations and insights.
A short list of respected annual surveys asks about similar types of education topics and/or questions. The PDK/Gallup survey, administered annually since 1969, typically reports survey results from samples including the national adult population, and additionally sometimes public school teachers or administrators. PDK/Gallup has asked various types of school voucher questions since 1970. The specific question version they have asked since 1993 has been the topic of controversy for more than a decade. Since 1984, the MetLife Foundation has conducted annual surveys in a series called “The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher,” and the emphasis has been to report the views and attitudes of teachers. Though occasionally, the project has surveyed parents, school leaders, and other groups immersed in K-12 education issues. In recent years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with Scholastic to conduct annual surveys of American public school teachers in their “Primary Sources” survey series. These projects do not emphasize reporting the views of parents of school-age children. The purpose of these surveys have been to shed light on findings regarding the general public and teachers.
Since 2007, William Howell, Paul Peterson, and Martin West have conducted national surveys for Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG). Unlike the previously mentioned annual surveys, their approach is more scholarly and academic by design. Howell et al have documented interesting findings related to the impact of framing questions, as well as cues from public leaders and academia, on public opinion. The Education Next/PEPG survey has asked questions about school vouchers (though framed differently compared to our questions), and like the other surveys, their primary focus has been measuring opinion among American adults. The authors have included public opinion results for a range of demographic groups including African Americans, Latinos, public employees, and teachers. In the past few years, they have examined opinions and views among parents. The Education Next/PEPG survey has demonstrated substantial differences between parents and the general adult population on matters of rating schools, funding, and school choice.
Parents, and mothers in particular, are rarely the main focus of reporting survey results related to K-12 education. To the best of our knowledge, we believe this is the first such attention given specifically to mothers. We need to draw more attention toward moms because they tend to be the primary decision-makers within families regarding schooling and educational matters. Their views, as a group, tend to go under-reported. We hope this short survey project can shed more light on their schooling preferences and priorities.
Because the interviews of mothers represent a subset of scientifically-based national sample of adults, we also present parallel data and findings for the general adult population in America, as well as breakouts for four regions of the country.
Our methodology is in line with polling industry standards. A randomly selected and statistically representative sample of Americans recently responded to a questionnaire including seven substantive items and 11 demographic items. Our methodology included probability sampling and random-digit dial. A total of 1,078 telephone interviews were completed in English (with available Spanish option) from April 17 to 24, 2012, by means of both landline and cell phone. The national sample includes 803 adults living in the United States. BRI oversampled to reach an additional 275 interviews with mothers of school-age children to complete, combined with the nationwide sample, 401 interviews with mothers of at least one child in elementary or secondary school. Based on U.S. Census data, statistical results were weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the national sample is ± 3.5 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for the “moms” sample is approximately ± 4.9 percentage points.
This polling paper has four sections. The first section summarizes key findings. We call the second section “Survey Snapshots,” which offers charts highlighting the core findings of the project. The third section describes the survey’s methodology, summarizes response statistics, and presents additional technical information on call dispositions for landline and cell phone interviews. The fourth section presents our questionnaire and results (“topline numbers”), essentially allowing the reader to follow the actual interview as it was conducted, with respect to question wording and ordering. We set out to give a straightforward analysis, going light on editorial commentary, and letting the numbers and charts communicate the major findings.