Two-in-three Americans see the need for major education reform.

With recent data revealing near record-low levels of confidence in the public school system, it is no surprise that in the June NBC/Wall Street Journal survey a majority of Americans indicate that they would like to see education reforms. Fully, 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of adults say we need major changes or a complete overhaul of public schools, while 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} believe the system currently works well or just needs some basic changes.

“I’d like to know how well you think our public schools are working. When it comes to education in grades K through twelve, please tell me whether you think our public schools work pretty well as they are now, some changes are needed, but basically they should be kept the same, major changes are needed, or a complete overhaul is needed.”


Views are quite consistent across some key demographic subgroups:

  • Men (61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} major changes/overhaul) and women (62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) see eye-to-eye on this issue.
  • Both adults ages 18-49 (62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} major changes/overhaul) and those ages 50+ (62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) think we need to fix the system.
  • Sixty percent (60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of parents agree that public schools require major changes or a complete overhaul.

There is a bit of a partisan and ideological dimension to these views, with a stronger appetite for reform among Republicans, Independents and conservatives. The heightened concern among these audiences follows the trend we saw in the April 2014 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, where 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans and 34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents indicated they had “very little” or “no confidence at all” in public schools, compared to just 21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats.


A few other notable demographic differences:

  • Adults in urban (65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} major changes/overhaul) and suburban (63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) communities are more likely to indicate that schools need major changes, compared to those in rural (52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) areas.
  • Solid majorities of all ethnic groups see the need for reform. However, the desire for change is stronger among African American adults (70{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} major changes/overhaul) than it is among white (60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and Hispanic (62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) respondents.
  • Income also influences views on this issue. Sixty-five percent (65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of adults from households earning less than $50,000 a year want major changes, while 58{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of respondents from higher income households share the same position.

This data reinforces the trend we started examining last year: Americans are losing faith in our schools and are ready for leaders to take bold steps to reform public education.

Public Opinion Strategies