The fact that more pollsters are providing surveys about the Common Core standards gives further validity to recent major news outlets’ claims that the controversial academic standards are a major political and electoral issue. A look behind a new poll, in fact, shows just how political Common Core has become for big government Republicans.
GOP pollster John McLaughlin and Associates has published a survey, funded by the Collaborative for Student Success, a group that itself receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary source of private financial backing for the Common Core standards.
Results of the survey demonstrated that 42 percent of all voters, including 34 percent of GOP primary voters and 44 percent of swing voters, say they have not seen, read, or heard anything about the Common Core standards.
However, two-thirds of likely voters say they favor Common Core when it is described in “simple, neutral language.”
The “simple, neutral language” is the following:
Common Core State Standards are simply a set of standards in Math and English which state what a child should know in both subjects by the end of each grade of school they complete. Common Core set expectations for what students should be able to achieve and compare schools from state to state. Knowing this, do you approve or disapprove of the Common Core State Standards?
It appears that one of the main reasons for conducting the poll was to counter the idea that Common Core is a major electoral issue that could endanger establishment GOP candidates.
McLaughlin and Associates states in the survey’s major findings section, “This is a decidedly different finding than the anecdotal evidence that Common Core is red-hot at the grassroots level and a virtual litmus test for candidates these days.”
“The anti-Common Core positions may be inviting in the short-term, but looking to November supporting state standards that elevate school achievement have far more upside,” the researchers conclude.
The survey participants were 1,000 likely general election voters, a subsequent oversample of 500 GOP primary voters, and a subsequent oversample of 500 swing voters.
Theodor Rebarber, CEO of AccountabilityWorks*, reviewed the McLaughlin poll for Breitbart News,= and found, “Despite the fact that Republican primary voters disapprove of Common Core by 41% to 33%, while the broader voter pool is split, the polling company disingenuously claims that this is at odds with anecdotal evidence that Common Core is red-hot or a litmus test issue.”
As the pollsters no doubt are aware, litmus test issues are strongly influenced by intensity and priority of opposition or support, not only overall approval or disapproval figures. By comparison, global warming is often cited as a public concern in surveys, but many of those same surveys indicate that it is near the bottom when voters are asked to rank order their concerns. It is likely that voters opposed to Common Core have greater intensity than voters who support it, which would definitely make it a red-hot/litmus issue, especially among Republican primary voters where there are already more opponents than supporters. That the pollsters chose not to ask any questions about intensity or priority cannot be attributed to a simple oversight by professionals, since they are interested in whether it is a litmus test issue, but is more likely based on an intent to mislead.
Rebarber also observed that McLaughlin and Associates “acknowledge that ‘a large percentage of voters” still don’t know what Common Core is: 42% of voters have not heard about it.”
They then implement a common trick in the industry of providing biased information about Common Core (while claiming it is “simple, neutral language”) to move those who are not familiar with Common Core to support it. For example, their information never reveals that serious academics have raised substantive concerns about Common Core, nor do they even acknowledge that the Common Core are intended to be national or nation-wide standards. In fact they refer to Common Core on multiple occasions as “State standards.” While this is part of the name of the Common Core initiative, the pollsters would know that individuals who know nothing about it might well assume that “State standards” refers to individual state standards, since that has been the historical practice. Further the pollsters never reveal that the federal government is behind the Common Core national tests, nor that the federal government is using funding (carrots) and denial of federal waivers (sticks) to push states to adopt Common Core.
Rebarber further asserts that “the pollsters offer two possible candidates, one pro and one against Common Core and ask survey respondents to choose which they prefer.”
“The pro candidate aims to help students and claims that 75% of teachers support Common Core, while the candidate against Common Core is made to sound like a crazed conspiracy theorist who never mentions the negative effects on students or teachers,” he states. “It is not surprising that, as a result of this manipulation, the pollsters are finally able to create a plurality in favor of Common Core (though still not a majority!).”
Interestingly, the poll’s claim that 75 percent of teachers support Common Core is derived from Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Common Core supporter, who paid a research firm last year to conduct a survey of AFT membership regarding perceptions of Common Core. Weingarten then used this survey to assert that “75% of AFT teachers surveyed support the Common Core.”
However, as statistician Mercedes Schneider observed, Weingarten’s survey was misleading, resulting in the illusion of “overwhelming approval” of the Common Core by member teachers.
Finally, Rebarber considers that in the McLaughlin poll, “We are not provided any information on the ‘Likely Voter’ screen that is being applied by the pollsters to select respondents, nor on how the data compares without this screen.”
“It is good practice for polls applying such a screen to also release some data for ‘All Voters’ and/or ‘Registered Voters,'” he adds. “This is important in evaluating the effect of the ‘Likely Voter’ screen. The pollsters, in this case, chose not to do so.”
“In summary, this poll is based on selective questioning and biased design,” concludes Rebarber. “It misleads less informed voters in order to achieve pro-Common Core results. In the case of a few questions that appear to be more straightforward, the underlying results do not support the pro-Common Core interpretation of the polling company.”
Rebarber’s conclusions are echoed by leading standards author and Professor Emerita at University of Arkansas Sandra Stotsky, who refers to the poll’s “simple, neutral language” provided to likely voters as a “deceptive statement that leaves out all the strings attached to Common Core, as well as the fact that both sets of standards have been heavily criticized by content experts.”
“The English language arts standards, for example, do not state at all what students should know by the end of each grade of school,” Stotsky continued. “They are mainly skills. Nor do we know what all students should know in math by the end of grade 9, grade 10, grade 11, or grade 12.”
“Common Core’s funders and supporters devotedly want the public to think that Common Core is simply two sets of standards, but parents are increasingly becoming aware that they have other purposes than to raise academic expectations for all children,” she added.
*Theodor Rebarber’s views are his own and do not necessarily express the views of his organization.