Marc Porter Magee Ph.D is the CEO and founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Back in February we launched the Education Roadtrip , a survey of 6,400 Americans across 8 regions that revealed 10 fascinating facts about our views on education and how they change from region to region.

We had a great response to the website and one of the biggest requests was to dig even deeper into the data. So we have been working on a series of blog posts we call “Education Roadtrip: Spring Break!” to do just that.

In this inaugural post, we make a return visit to America’s views on educational standards and, specifically the Common Core State Standards initiative, which have been adopted by 44 states (and Washington, D.C.). The standards are designed to lay out clear, rigorous guidelines for what students should master at every grade level to graduate with the skills they need to thrive after high school.

Our big conclusion is that demographics matter even more than we would have thought and that you can’t take geography for granted when discussing the ideological dimensions of this debate.

Digging deeper into national data

Because the Roadtrip provides us with such as large sample (6,400 respondents), one thing we can do with the data is divide it by demographics rather than geography.

To do so, we looked at two dimensions of support for standards: support for the goal of Common Core (“Holding all students across the country to a uniform set of high standards”) and support for Common Core itself. We organized the results in terms of net support—percentage supporting minus percentage not supporting—across four demographics: 1) race and ethnicity, 2) school type, 3) presidential vote and 4) political ideology.

Race and ethnicity. We were able to break the results out by five demographic groups and what we found was a significant variation in net support for both uniform standards and common core. For example, Asians’ net support for Common Core is nearly twice that for whites.

School Type. We were also able to break the results out by four different school types: parents with children in traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools and who are homeschooled. While the first three types of parents had nearly equal levels of net support, we found a significant drop in support for both uniform standards and Common Core among homeschooling parents. In fact, they are the only group we found with greater numbers opposed to Common Core than supporting it.

Presidential Vote. When we broke out the results by who respondents voted for in the last presidential election, we found in interesting split: nearly identical support for the principle of uniform standards but Obama voters’ net support for Common Core was nearly twice as large as Romney voters.

Political Ideology. We also looked at the connection between political ideology and support. We found that while conservatives and moderates had six points greater support for the principle of uniform standards than liberals, this pattern is reversed for Common Core itself with liberals and moderates holding an 11 point greater level of net positive support than conservatives.

The intersection of ideology and geography

We know that ideology matters when it comes to Common Core but do these national patterns hold across the different regions in America?

It turns out they don’t. In fact, the patterns vary significantly across our eight regions, sometimes in dramatic ways.

The contours in the West are similar to the national findings, but there is a more pronounced drop off in conservative support for Common Core, down five points.

In the Border States we found the opposite pattern, with conservative support seven points higher than the national sample for Common Core, nearly matching liberals’ support in the region.

Voters in the Mountain States had the smallest net positive support for Common Core than any region. One reason is the fact that conservative net support is down 18 points on uniform standards and nine points on Common Core compared to the national numbers.

In the Midwest you start to see a pattern that we will see in other regions where the moderates emerge as the strongest backers of Common Core. You also see another interesting pattern where conservatives are significantly more supportive of uniform standards, with net support exceeding liberals by 12 points.

Voters in the South generally have more support for Common Core and uniform standards than the national sample, and this is particularly true among moderates.

In contrast with the South, we found less support in the National Capital region than nationally. Here a new pattern emerges, with lower liberal support for uniform standards, which is no longer different than net support for Common Core. More liberal support for Common Core and less conservative support also means a much sharper partisan divide on the issue.

Mid-Atlantic voters more closely resemble the national averages, with slightly more conservative support for uniform standards but overall patterns largely representative.

The smallest net support among liberals for uniform standards and the sharpest partisan divide is found in New England. Conservative net support is almost three times larger than that for liberals. But this big variation evens out on the question of Common Core specifically, with only a two-point difference between conservatives and liberals.

Demographics and Geography both matter mightily

As I noted above, our big conclusion from this return visit to Common Core is that demographics matter mightily and that you can’t take geography for granted when discussing the ideological dimensions of this debate.

What do you conclude? Share your thoughts in the comments below and join the debate on twitter with the hashtag #50CANEdRoadTrip.


Methodological Notes

6,400 interviews among a random sample of registered voters were conducted from May 29 to June 16, 2013 by online survey. 800 interviews were conducted each of eight regions (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, National Capital, South, Midwest, Mountain States, Border States, and West) and the results were weighted to ensure proportional responses. The complete survey methodology and list of each of the states in each region can be found here and the complete national survey results can be found here.

The following are the margins of error at 95 percent confidence by crosstab for the national results: Obama voters (±1.68), Romney voters (±2.09), Conservatives (±2.21), moderates (±1.94), liberals (±2.38.), traditional public schools (±2.64), private schools (±7.17), public charters (±10.39), home schooled (±9.10), white (±1.41), Black (±3.61), Hispanic (±4.29), Asian (±7.58) and Native American (±12.65).

The following are the ranges of the margins of error at 95 percent confidence by crosstab for the regional results: Conservatives (±5.58 to ±6.98), moderates (±5.21 to ±5.80) and liberals (±6.07 to ±7.41).


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