Support for the Common Core has typically hovered around 50 percent, but the opposition has grown over the last year. In fact, an April poll from the University of Connecticut is the first and only poll to show a plurality of people who think the Common Core is bad policy. If this trend continues and approval begins to dip, then it would likely portend the end of mainstream support for the standards.
Despite years of media coverage on the standards, the most consistent finding among polls is that most people are not familiar with the Common Core. According to the UConn survey, only 39 percent of respondents had heard of the Common Core. In an April survey from McLaughlin and Associates, 58 percent of respondents reported that they had seen, read, or heard anything about the standards. It’s important to remember that polls typically do not ask respondents with no knowledge of the standards about their opinion. Critically this means that because very few people have heard of the standards, real approval and disapproval are lower than we might think. The average approval for Common Core in April was 42 percent and the average disapproval was 40 percent. Assuming 40 percent of the respondents to those surveys knew of Common Core, that means real approval was 16.8 percent and real disapproval was 16 percent. [i] This lack of familiarity means that the conventional wisdom has not yet set in place.
The Far Right Does Not Support the Common Core
Opposition to the Common Core is stronger among those on the far right than on the far left. The UConn poll found 58 percent of conservatives think Common Core is bad policy, as opposed to 28 percent of liberals. In their survey of GOP primary voters, McLaughlin and Associates found 56 percent of those who described themselves as very conservative opposed the standards. Among somewhat conservative people, it was a dead heat at 35 percent both approving and disapproving. It is likely that President Obama’s unpopularity with this group of voters accounts for some of the opposition to the Common Core, but across surveys, there is a consistent finding that conservatives who believe in local control of education oppose the standards.
People believe that rigorous national standards will improve graduation rates and increase the rate at which students attend college — but they also show increasing numbers of people disapprove of the Common Core. This suggests that shoddy implementation and loud politicians on the far left and right have weakened the Common Core brand. The contradiction in how people conceptualize education standards should not give confidence to either supporters or detractors. It simply means the first act of the Common Core story has come to an end. Stay tuned for more drama and intrigue.
Josh Bleiberg is a research analyst in the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. Reach him via email or Twitter.
[i] Author’s Calculation:
Real Approval=Percent Familiar x Real Approval 16.8% = 40% x 42%
Real Disapproval= Percent Familiar x Real Disapproval 16% = 40% x 40%