August 3, 2022

Trust in public schools is becoming more partisan

Story Highlights

  • Americans’ confidence in public schools remains low after pandemic rally
  • National image of schools dampened by low GOP rating
  • Half of Republicans now have little to no confidence in public schools

WASHINGTON, DC — Americans’ confidence in U.S. public schools remains low, with 28% saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the institution, down from 32% last year. Both figures are down from 41% in 2020, reflecting a brief surge in the early months of the pandemic after recording 29% in 2019.

While all political party groups expressed more confidence than usual in public schools in 2020, Republican confidence has since plunged, while that of independents has fallen and that of Democrats has remained near their pandemic peak. .


The percentage of Republicans with a lot or some confidence in public schools has fallen from 34% in 2020 to 20% in 2021 and 14% today. Since 2020, independents’ confidence has fallen nine percentage points to 29% and that of Democrats has remained quite high – currently 43%, down from 48% in 2020.

The current 29-point gap between Republican and Democrat confidence in public schools contrasts with an average of seven points since the Gallup trend in institutional confidence began in 1973. from 25 points last year to a previous high of 19 points in 2013, likely related to partisan disagreement over common core educational standards at the time.

Americans’ confidence in public schools is measured as part of Gallup’s annual survey of public confidence in a number of national institutions, with the last update conducted June 1-20.

Half of Republicans now have little to no confidence in schools

The extent of Republican dissatisfaction with education today is even more evident in the sharp rise in those expressing very little or no confidence in public schools. Half of Republicans are now also critical, up 19 points from 31% in 2019.


Republican confidence in public schools has been on a downward trend for decades, and it tends to be lower sometimes when a Democrat is president than when a Republican is in office. However, the 12-point drop in the average level of Republican confidence in public schools between the presidency of Donald Trump (29%) and under that of President Joe Biden (17%) is greater than predicted by these factors alone.

Republicans’ recent sourness on education was also evident in January’s Gallup Mood of the Nation poll, when the percentage of Republicans satisfied with “the quality of public education in the country” registered just 20. %, down 17 points from the previous year. And that was evident in last year’s Jobs and Education poll, conducted each August, which showed that Republicans’ satisfaction with the quality of education children in kindergarten through Grade 12 receive increased from 51% in 2019 to 34% in 2021.

Americans’ confidence in US public schools is near an all-time low

The divergent trust of Republicans and Democrats in public schools has kept overall trust in public schools, nationally, low for the past two years, roughly in line with the 29% to 32% recorded most years since 2012. While the current 28% is below the average 31% seen since 2012, it is slightly higher than the all-time low of 26% measured in 2014.

Nearly 40% of Americans had confidence in public schools most years from 1989 to 2006. Before that, half or more said they were very or somewhat confident, except for a short period from 1981 to 1983 when confidence fell. . .


Trust in public schools is unrelated to parental status, as 29% of adults with a child under 18 have high trust in the institution, which is similar to the 28% found among non-parents . Although trust in schools has become increasingly polarized by political party in recent years, it is similar across gender, age and region of the country.


Americans’ confidence in public schools rose at the start of the coronavirus pandemic as people rallied around professions that were severely disrupted by the economic shutdown, but that calmed down a year ago and the confidence has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time, public education has become more politicized, with Republicans more opposed than Democrats to distance learning and face mask requirements for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. A debate has also erupted at national and local levels over school curricula touching on racism, gender theory and sexual orientation. Republican-sponsored legislation passed or debated in many states to scale back these programs has kept these issues at the forefront of party politics, with Florida providing the most prominent example. A law came into force there this month that bans certain classroom lessons related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

While Republicans express low confidence in America’s public schools, education is not on their minds when asked to name the most important issue facing the country today – only 1% of Republicans in June named education in response to this open question. So it remains to be seen whether concerns about education are driving Republicans to the polls in November — or whether other issues, from inflation to abortion to guns, are more important in influencing whether and how people vote.

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