Poll: 48% of Americans Satisfied with Public Education

Gallup has asked US adults about their satisfaction with education since 1999, and specifically each August since 2001 as part of Gallup's annual Work and Education poll. Rebecca Riflin, writing for Gallup ®Politics, reports that in 2014, 48% of Americans are "somewhat" or "completely" satisfied with the quality of K-12 education.

This is the highest percentage since 2004. And, for the first time since 2007, US citizens are about as likely to say they are satisfied as they are likely to they are dissatisfied.

The highest satisfaction level, 53%, was reached in 2004. This was the only year that more Americans were satisfied with education than dissatisfied. The most negative year was 2000. At that time, education was an important issue in the presidential campaign and more than 6 in 10 said they were dissatisfied.

Although the satisfaction level has remained somewhat stable in in recent years, from 43% to 46% in 2005 – 2013, this year satisfaction rose to a level that is similar to what was seen in the early 2000s.

Americans who have children in grades K through 12 have higher satisfaction levels than do US adults as a whole. A majority of parents in this category are satisfied with US education (57%). It is possible that parents are basing their satisfaction, at least in part, on their own children's education, and not just on what they read and hear in the news.

Americans with children tend to be more positive than the general public about education. This is evident when parents with children in grades K-12 are asked about their satisfaction with their own children's education. Three in four parents are satisfied with the education that their oldest children are receiving in 2014. This is much higher than the 48% of Americans who are satisfied with K-12 education generally.

The 75% of parents who are satisfied with their own children's education is about the same as numbers in prior years, as measured by Gallup. Last year, however, was lower, at 67%.

Parents, for the most part, are satisfied with their own children's education, and most Americans, in general, have been dissatisfied with the quality of American education. The discrepancy may be based on Americans focusing on media reports on inadequate schools and problematic school districts nationally, but focusing on what is perceived as a more positive situation locally, when they are asked about their own children's education. Gallup calls this the "optimism gap".

For this poll, Gallup conducted telephone interviews Aug. 7-10, 2014. The random sample was of 1,032 adults aged 18 and older, and participants lived in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

In another recent Gallup poll, when Americans were asked who should have the greatest influence on what is taught in public schools, Americans prefer local school boards over federal government by large margin — 56% to 15%.

09 2, 2014
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