North Carolinians of all political persuasions support charter schools and school choice. But the strongest in favor? Democrats and African-American voters.

That’s the result of a new poll released this week sponsored by N.C. Civitas Institute and conducted by SurveyUSA.

  • African-American voters were the most likely to be in favor of North Carolina’s charter schools, with 82% saying they supported them. That compares with 74% of white voters and 72% of Asian voters.
  • Democratic voters were more likely than any other group to say they’d prefer to choose a charter school for their child.
  • Democrats were slightly less likely than Republicans to say they’d choose a traditional public school.
  • And Democrats were overwhelmingly in support of the “Opportunity Scholarship” voucher program for private schools. Fully 85% of Democratic voters said they supported the program, roughly equal to the percentage of Republican and unaffiliated voters who support it.
131 students at the Greensboro Islamic Academy received Opportunity Scholarship vouchers last year, second most in the state (behind Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville). Photo by Greensboro Islamic Academy via Facebook

The data comes in direct conflict with the policy position the statewide Democratic Party has taken.

Democrats and affiliated interest groups have repeatedly opposed efforts to expand charter schools and have criticized a program that provides vouchers to low-income children to attend private school. They’ve described charter schools and private school vouchers as methods to “resegregate” schools.

N.C. Democrats risk alienating their own voters with their stance on charter schools and school choice.

The issue has implications for both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have struggled to control the narrative around education over the last decade, despite raising teacher salaries and implementing choice policies that voters love.

Statewide candidates would do well to campaign hard on school choice in 2020 and show specifically why it matters.

Democrats would likely be better served in dropping opposition to charter schools at large and instead focus on how to expand and replicate the most successful ones.

Why? Here’s another key figure: The percentage of Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated voters who said they’d be more likely to support a candidate who favored school choice was exactly equal — 78%.

Cover image by KIPP Charlotte charter school.


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