The results of a new poll suggest that a majority of Americans now support the expansion of school choice for all families. With 54 percent of respondents saying they favor universal-choice policies—which typically come in the form of programs that let families use government money to pay for private schools—the findings released on Tuesday by the policy and opinion magazine Education Next indicate that the idea has enjoyed a substantial jump in popularity since last year, when just 45 percent of respondents said they supported such proposals.
These findings are a boon for the Trump administration, which has advocated for school choice from the get-go to little avail, with Congress ignoring his 2017 budget plan calling on the federal government to dedicate $1.4 billion to expanding vouchers and again rejecting a similar proposal this year. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos previously served as the board chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, which describes itself as “the nation’s voice for educational choice”; when announcing DeVos’s appointment, Trump indicated he selected her precisely to help advance his school-choice agenda.
It's not clear whether the administration's public support for school-choice policies is driving the apparent shift in public opinion. But it's curious, considering that DeVos, the most high-profile cheerleader for school choice, is also Trump's least-popular cabinet member. In a March 2018 poll, 28 percent of respondents said they have a “very unfavorable” impression of DeVos, while just 8 percent found her “very favorable.” But at least according to these numbers, her reputation doesn't seem to be hurting public support for school choice. That’s especially evident among Republicans, who have in recent years grown to espouse school choice as a key component of the party’s platform. And in this survey, 64 percent of Republican respondents said they support school choice for all families, a 10-percentage-point increase from last year. Fewer than half—47 percent—of Democrats said they’d favor such a proposal, up 7 percentage points from the 2017 poll.