on K-12 Education Reform
In almost every context, words matter. Public opinion on particular issues can shift greatly depending on the language used, and K-12 education reform is no exception. To help further understand this, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty commissioned Research Now Survey Sampling International to conduct a statewide survey experiment of 1,500 adults in Wisconsin. We tested a number of messages related to education reform, ranging from vouchers to Education Savings Accounts (ESA). We also surveyed public opinion on spending on K-12 schools and the impact of Act 10, the 2011 collective bargaining reform law, on teachers and students.
To conduct the school choice messaging study for vouchers, charter schools, and ESAs, respondents were randomized into one of several messaging conditions, exposing them to certain types of information. Following this randomization, respondents are asked about their level of support for school choice on a five point scale ranging from “strongly oppose” to “strongly support.” We learn which messages increase support by comparing the average responses of those in the control group to the average response of those in each treatment group.
We found that school choice is in fact popular, but the words that are used to describe it are of critical importance. For example, Republicans increase their support of vouchers when discussed in terms of civics and patriotism. Democrats and African Americans increase their support when discussed in terms of diversity. Surprisingly Education Savings Accounts have majority or plurality of support amongst all demographics, including Democrats, and suggest strong appetite for more school choice