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Poll: Voters want schools to focus on basics instead of critical race theory

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The vast majority of people think schools should focus on traditional subjects like math, reading and science, and a majority also say critical race theory should not be taught, a new poll shows.

According to The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll conducted by Noble Predictive, most surveyed said they want schools to focus on core subjects instead of hot-button topics like critical race theory.

Critical race theory is a theoretical framework that explores systematic oppression and racism within institutions. A number of states have passed laws limiting discussions about it or some of its key tenets in classrooms, arguing it’s racist.

According to David Byler, chief of research at Noble Predictive Insights, the poll shows debates around critical race theory and racism are often taken up by those with extreme views; most people just want their children to learn the essentials.

“The broader context here is that on any given political issue is that the activists and those with the most extreme views are overrepresented,” Byler told Chalkboard News in an interview.

The poll found that 51% of likely voters said critical race theory should not be mandatory in K-12 school, while 36% said it should be taught. Republicans were far more likely to say it should not be taught (71%) than Democrats (28%). The majority of Democrats (55%) said it should be taught.

The majority of true independents, 51%, said they were opposed to the CRT framework in K-12 education.

“When you talk with real voters, like we did, then you learn that people are concerned with bread and butter issues,” Byner said. “People want education for students to be a core part of a school’s mission, such as reading and writing.”

Black voters reported the highest support for making critical race theory mandatory in education at 59%, followed by those ages 18-34 at 56%. Democrats at 55% were the next most likely group to signal support for teaching the theory.

While critical race theory divided voters based on demographics and politics, there was widespread support for schools focusing on traditional “hard subjects” including reading, math and science, the poll found.

Eighty-seven percent of voters indicated that schools should focus on math, reading and science. Support spanned political affiliations with Democrats (83%), Republicans (90%) and true independents (88%) coalescing.

Overall, only 10% of voters signaled disagreement. Of those, young people ages 18-34 (17%), Black voters (14%) and those of other races (14%) were most likely to disagree that schools should focus on the core subjects.

Byler said the poll’s findings show what voters want from the nation’s public schools, and for most, it’s not controversial.

“When you ask people what the critical job of a school is, they say it is to teach students the basics,” Byler said. “Voters’ top priority is that schools carry out their basic function well.”

The Center Square Voters’ Voice poll was conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights in March. The poll queried 2,510 respondents split roughly between both Democrats and Republicans along with 340 true independents. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 2.1%.