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Gallup Poll: Americans View Education a Number-one Priority, Amenable to Government Intervention

Aired January 23, 2001 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, when it comes to the need for better schools and smarter students, better-educated students, Americans and their government seem to be on the same page, at least, according to Frank Newport, then the Gallup folks.

Frank joins us from his studio in Princeton, New jersey, with all the facts and figures -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Indeed, Natalie.

Let's make four point, as we wait for President Bush to make his education announcement.

Number one, education is a high priority, not obviously for Bush and the Democrats, but for the American public. In our recent polling, in fact, it's been number one. Half of Americans say it's a top priority, ahead of social security and all these other issues.

Our second point, education is seen by Americans as being amenable to government intervention. For both Bush right now, back for Clinton, back for Bush the elder, in all instances, about two- thirds of the public said they thought these presidents could make a difference to improve education.

Point number three: It's not vouchers or the standardized test that the public think will have the biggest impact on education. When we ask them this, it's money. Pay teachers more, the federal government giving the local districts more money, are the top two things that the American public says will make a big difference, not vouchers.

Finally, on vouchers, we just, at Gallup, completed a systematic review of the literature. And it's a very complex issue. The basic response to the question, favor or oppose vouchers? As Bush has proposed, you have a slight favor-over-oppose ratio. But when we really look at the data, we think vouchers are up for grabs, depending on how the program is defined to the public. And of course, that's what we're going to be seeing this week and the weeks to come.

Natalie, Lou, back to you.

ALLEN: Have you done polls on vouchers before? Is there any comparisons to how the public perceived them before Bush started pushing it?

NEWPORT: Indeed, we've been polling on vouchers for a number of years now, Gallup has. And we have found that the evidence moves back and forth. It really depends on how you phrase it. If you say vouchers could be used for religious schools, for example, Natalie, it would only pay part of the tuition, support goes up. If you just say it's money from the government, so parents could send kids to private schools, support goes down.

All of that tells us in polling business that it's open to, as we just said before, who defines it best and first.

ALLEN: Frank Newport, we thank you from the Gallup Poll. Thanks for giving us the opinions of Americans.

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