Is Supporting Common Core a Political Liability for Republicans?

57 percent of independents oppose Common Core.


Polling can be deceptive. Often it's not about the percentages, it's about the enthusiasm.

If 5 or 10 percent really hate something while 60 percent say they support it, without knowing much about it, but don't really care... it's a political liability. A politician isn't gaining that 60 percent, instead he's making that 10 percent into his dedicated enemies.

Congressmen tend to understand this better than senators or presidents. Let alone billionaires detached from ordinary life.

And Common Core, especially among Republicans, is not a 60/10 split.

A new survey commissioned by the pro-Common Core organization Collaborative for Student Success and conducted by veteran Republican pollster John McLaughlin, found that among all voters, 35 percent approve of Common Core, 33 percent disapprove and 32 percent know very little about the standards. Among Republican primary voters, the negatives were slightly higher — 33 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove and 26 percent don’t know.

So it's a political liability. Even ordinary voters don't particularly like it. And the enthusiasm among supporters is weak. And its opponents are passionate and motivated.

Backers of the Common Core standards — which have been wholeheartedly endorsed by the Obama administration and promoted by prominent Republicans such as former Florida Gov. and possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush — argue those results, while still showing sharp divisions, prove that conservative Republicans as a whole aren’t as violently opposed to the system of national math and English standards as widely believed.

Just by 9 percent. Not exactly a winner. And what's the up side, besides corporate donations?

The real news coming out of it is that the poll tested ways to sell it to GOP voters.

Of the more than 1,000 likely voters nationwide polled in April, reaction was initially mixed on Common Core.

But support soared to 65 percent among all all voters when told that Common Core is "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 supported Common Core 59 percent to 35 percent when given that description. Swing voters approved 66 percent to 25 percent.

A key finding, according to the pollster: By a 48 percent to 36 percent margin, voters said they prefer a candidate who says that Common Core is supported by teachers and will help kids than one who says that it was developed in secret by the Obama administration and is being imposed on kids without input from parents and local school boards.

That sounds good in a push poll, but how well will it hold up in a debate season? Even liberal parents are bashing Common Core. And there's no reason to position the argument that way because

1. Teachers hate Common Core

2. It was developed in no small part by a billionaire and shoved into the system

Those are both effective talking points. And there's more than one poll out there.

Those who do know about Common Core, though, are generally skeptical of the initiative’s ability to boost the quality of American education. Just 33 percent believe adopting Common Core standards will increase the quality of education in their communities, compared to 27 percent who say it will have no effect, and 30 percent who say it will actually be detrimental.

Overall, 38 percent believe Common Core is a good policy, compared to 44 percent who believe the opposite.

And the UConn poll is not a push poll and provides crosstabs. 55 percent of Republicans are opposed to Common Core. Only 30 percent support it.

57 percent of independents oppose Common Core. 58 percent of conservatives oppose it. 53 percent of liberals support it.

Broken down by race, 47 percent of non-whites support it. 48 percent of whites oppose it. 36 percent support it.

By region, opposition is highest in the south, lowest in the west. So if you're a Republican Congressman running in a white district in the South, you might not want to rely too much on the McLaughlin poll.

Finally, the highest level of support comes from those who have children who are not in school. Those who have children in school oppose Common Core 44 to 39.

Of all the age groups, the lowest level of support comes from the 18 to 34 demo that would be expected to support Common Core. Instead they oppose it 46 to 33.

Finally, finally, support is highest among those making over $100k a year. Make of that what you will.