GOP pollster finds support for Common Core among Republican, swing voters

Republican voters generally support the Common Core State Standards, something that might surprise GOP candidates, a Republican pollster reported on Monday.

“Based on the relentless drumbeat of opposition coming from the political right, a Republican candidate could be forgiven for assuming conservatives don’t support Common Core Standards,” longtime Republican pollster John McLaughlin said in a statement. “But, in fact, the view of Common Core among Republicans isn’t nearly as clear-cut as many conservative activists think.

“Ordinary Republican primary voters, which far outnumber the grassroots activists, are generally very supportive of the standards,” he said.

McLaughlin’s new poll found that among all voters, 35 percent approve of the standards, 33 percent disapprove and 32 percent don’t know. Among Republican primary voters, 33 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove and 37 percent don’t know.

But the numbers of supporters went up when the survey defined the Common Core as “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.”

Republican primary voters then were 59 percent in favor, 35 percent against.

Overall respondents split 65 percent in favor, 29 percent opposed after hearing the definition. Swing voters approved 65 percent to 25 percent.

“The power of standards is very strong. Americans want their kids to be smart,” McLaughlin said in a briefing with reporters.

“All the dangers that come from being associated with the national Republican brand – being exclusive, Anglo-only, anti-woman, anti-Hispanic – are in play here and Republicans would be wise to think of this issue in a broader context,” he said in poll report’s conclusions. “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.”

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Common Core supporter, said that before his state adopted the standards in 2010 it received an “F-minus” rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on its preparation of students for college or work. The state now is in the third year of implementing the standards “in a very successful way,” Haslam said at the briefing.

“A lot of people haven’t heard much about it,” the governor said, and some things they’ve heard about them “aren’t exactly accurate.” He said that when people learned that their local schools would continue to choose curricula and text books, as is the case nationwide, support for the higher standards increased.

The McLaughlin poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, an organization that supports the Common Core. The poll was a sample of 1,000 likely general election voters balanced for geography, race, gender and other factors. It also included additional respondents, or “oversampled,” in order to survey 500 Republicans and 500 swing voters.

One of the questions for Republican primary voters was whether they’d be more likely to support:

“Candidate A, who says that Common Core State Standards are supported by 75% of teachers and will help students learn more and be better prepared when they graduate high school.”

Or, “Candidate B, who says that Common Core State Standards were developed in secret by the Obama administration and are being imposed on kids without input from parents and local school boards.”

Republican primary voters liked Candidate A by 48 percent to 36 percent.

McLaughlin said the poll also showed that anti-Common Core rhetoric could be a liability for candidates in general elections where swing voters decide the race.

Asked if they favored a candidate who supports “making sure your state utilizes Common Core State Standards for math and English to ensure that students are adequately prepared for college or get a good job,” 60 percent of swing voters were in favor, 26 percent opposed.

The poll was a sample of 1,000 likely general election voters conducted online from April 7-13 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. An oversample to reach 500 Republican primary voters and 500 swing voters was conducted April 14-17, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.