September 3rd, 2013 · Blog, Issues, News, Poll release, Press
New Poll Conducted for PACE/USC Rossier School of Education by Tulchin Research and M4 Strategies Shows Support For Keeping Power With Local Educators and Dchool Boards, But Not Without AccountabilityDespite calls from Sacramento to reduce standardized testing in California public schools, voters strongly support the use of state standardized tests, both as an essential way to measure student performance and as an important element in teachers' evaluations, a new PACE/USC Rossier School of Education Poll shows. Nearly two-thirds of California voters said students should be tested in every grade level to ensure they are progressing, as opposed to 22 percent of voters who said California should cut back on testing. Among parents with school children, 66 percent said California should test students in each grade level and 25 percent said the state should cut back. "Most of the political experts say that parents think their children are tested too frequently, but our poll shows just the opposite," said poll director Dan Schnur, who also serves as the director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. "Large majorities of California parents, and even larger majorities of state voters, want to see students tested regularly and in a wide range of subjects." When asked about testing high schoolers, 55 percent of voters said California should test students in all subjects, as opposed to 34 percent who said the state should test students in math and English but let teachers evaluate their students in other subjects. Among parents with school children, 51 percent agreed with testing high schoolers in all subjects and 42 percent said testing should be limited to English and math. Voters also said student performance on standardized tests should play a sizable role in evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness. Forty-three percent of voters said teachers should be judged equally on their students’ standardized test results, assessments of their classroom performance and evaluations by peers. Thirty percent said evaluations should include some student test results but should be weighted mostly toward classroom assessments and peer evaluations. Only 10 percent of Californians said student performance on standardized tests shouldn’t be used to evaluate teachers at all, and 8 percent said teachers should be evaluated mostly on test results, with some assessment of their classroom performance and peer evaluations. "A decade after 'No Child Left Behind,' Californians remain strongly supportive of standardized testing," said Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor at the USC Rossier School. "These results suggest that Californians believe standardized tests should remain an important part of California education policy moving forward; however, they also believe that outcomes other than reading and mathematics are essential for California's schools." ‘Tough love’ for teachers Californians are strongly supportive of teachers and want to give them additional tools to succeed, but also want teachers held to higher standards. Fifty-two percent of voters agreed that paying teachers more for exceeding performance standards would improve the quality of the state’s public schools, as opposed to 21 percent who said it would make things worse. A plurality of voters also said they would choose to provide additional support and training to struggling teachers (42 percent) over making it easier to fire teachers who “repeatedly fail to perform at acceptable levels” (29 percent). But most voters (48 percent) said teachers are largely to blame if a school fails, followed by parents (28 percent) and local school boards (25 percent). More than 80 percent believe at least some component of teacher evaluation should be based on student standardized test scores. And when asked what would have the most positive impact on public schools, the top answer was “removing bad teachers from the classroom” (43 percent), followed by “more involvement from parents” (33 percent), and “more money for school districts and schools” (25 percent). “In California, state law and local rules make it challenging for districts to reward their best teachers and remove their worst teachers,” said Dominic Brewer, Clifford H. and Betty C. Allen Professor in Urban Leadership at the USC Rossier School. “Voters, however, clearly think both strategies would help improve schools. “ “There’s a basic ‘pro-teacher’ sentiment, that teachers should largely be in the driver’s seat and should get the tools, money and extra training they need,” Brewer said. “But there is a tough love message from voters: they value and trust teachers and want them to have more resources, but they also want real accountability for student outcomes." Voters favor local control Voters overwhelmingly agreed that power and responsibility for school performance should rest in the hands of local school boards and teachers, not at the state level. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, said the main responsibility for ensuring student success should rest with local educators; 28 percent said local school districts; and 23 percent said the state legislature. When asked who should be most responsible for deciding whether a school is succeeding or failing, 40 percent of voters said local school boards should decide, 20 percent said parents, and 14 percent said the state government. Only 4 percent thought that the federal government should have this responsibility. Jury still out on Brown's education accomplishments When asked how Gov. Jerry Brown has handled education in California, 42 percent of voters said they approved of Brown’s work and 46 percent said they disapproved. That represents a net 23 percentage point drop from Brown’s overall approval rating, where 55 percent of voters approve of the job he’s done overall and 36 percent disapprove. “Given his much higher profile action on issues related to the economy and public safety and elsewhere, Brown’s early decisions on education have simply been overshadowed,” Schnur said. “Looking closely at the drop between Gov. Brown’s overall job approval and his education job approval ratings, much of the decrease comes from his traditional support centers: Democratic female voters,” said Jeff Harrelson of Republican polling firm MFour Research, who conducted this poll with Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research. “However, the drop is less pronounced among voters who actually have kids in school, compared with those who do not have kids in school, suggesting that much of the negative attitude we see is driven by voters operating on pre-existing education system perceptions, rather than by parents whose kids are going to school every day.” Most voters also said they were not familiar with new education policies Brown and the state Legislature have enacted in the last year. Sixty-three percent of voters said they were “not aware” of the new funding formula that gives school districts more control over how they spend money and allocates more money to needy districts. While four times as many more voters believe Proposition 30 – a temporary sales tax and income tax hike to fund education – has helped public schools (20 percent) than hurt public schools (5 percent), just over half of voters (54 percent), said the measure has had no effect on public schools and 22 percent said they didn’t know if it has had an impact. “Some voters give the Governor credit for Proposition 30 benefiting California’s public schools. However, he still has a lot of work to do to convince the majority of voters who believe it has not had an impact,” said Ben Tulchin, president of Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research. The survey asked voters how much they knew about Brown's recent local control funding formula policy and their views on the subject. Three in 10 voters (30 percent) indicated they were aware of this new policy. When presented two statements from supporters and opponents of the policy, voters were evenly divided as 30 percent agree with supporters and 31 percent sided with opponents, a statistically insignificant difference. When asked about California’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards, 71 percent of voters said they knew little or nothing about it. But there are signs that voters are becoming slightly more optimistic about public education. When asked about the state’s public schools, 13 percent of voters said they were “getting better,” as compared to 7 percent who agreed in last year’s PACE/USC Rossier Poll. Forty-nine percent said state schools had “gotten worse,” as compared to 57 percent in 2012. “Gov. Jerry Brown has made some big bets this year on the way the education system runs, and it's really too early to say how these will play out,” said David N. Plank, executive director of PACE. “Most voters are not yet aware of these changes, but there are signs in our poll that their perceptions of California's schools are beginning to improve. There’s reason to think Gov. Brown will see some political benefits down the road.” Voters were also asked whom they would vote for in matchups between Brown and potential Republican challengers, including former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) and businessman Neel Kashkari. When Brown was pitted against Maldonado, 42 percent of voters chose Brown and 21 percent chose Maldonado. In a matchup between Brown and Donnelly, 43 percent chose Brown and 21 percent chose Donnelly. Between Brown and Kashkari, 44 percent chose Brown and 15 percent chose Kashkari. The PACE/USC Rossier Poll was conducted Aug. 27 to 30, 2013 by polling firms MFour Research and Tulchin Research and surveyed 1,001 registered California voters. The poll was conducted online and allowed respondents to complete the survey on a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the overall sample was +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll is the third in a series from Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the USC Rossier School of Education. --- Download the PACE/USC Rossier Online Poll Memo here. Download the PACE/USC Online Poll Toplines and Crosstabs here. ---
Press coverage of our new California poll:LA School Report: "New USC Poll: Public Approval for Testing and Evaluations"
June 5th, 2013 · Blog, Company News, Issues, News
Beyond these recent electoral successes, we are continuing to work closely with our current clients in providing them accurate polling data, messaging and strategic advice as they pursue their objectives. Let us know how we can help you deal with your public opinion research needs.
- Electing State Senator Curren Price to the Los Angeles City Council in District 9 – We worked closely with Curren and his team in providing polling, messaging and targeting strategy in this come-from-behind victory. The State Senator began the race a distant 4th and surged to finish 1st in the primary and then carried that momentum to win a hard-fought general election. Tulchin had also worked closely with Curren when he came from behind to win his State Senate seat in a special election in 2009.
- Helping guide Assemblywoman Norma Torres to capturing a State Senate special election in California – We provided multiple rounds of polling in both the primary and run-off for an effective IE as Norma won this Inland Empire-based district and defeated a well-known local Republican mayor to ensure Democrats maintain their 2/3 super-majority in the State Legislature. Despite an unpredictably low turnout in this special election that risked tilting against Democrats, our polling was spot-on and accurately predicted her margin of victory in both the primary and general. Tulchin also polled for Torres when she first won her seat for Assembly.
- Working with Dallas City Council candidate Bobby Abtahi – We are polling for and providing ongoing strategic counsel to Bobby Abtahi’s campaign for Dallas City Council in District 14. A political newcomer, Bobby entered a crowded field with limited name ID. Drawing upon our research findings, we worked with the campaign to develop a strategic blueprint and build a winning coalition that enabled Bobby to leapfrog several better known opponents and finish a strong second place, shocking the political establishment and heading into the run-off with momentum.
- Accurately predicting the outcomes of a medical marijuana ballot measure and the Mayor's race in Los Angeles - With polling data all over the place in the competitive LA mayor's race and the multiple medical marijuana measures on the ballot, our polling accurately predicted Eric Garcetti would win the mayor's race by a narrow margin and that Proposition D, which limits the number of marijuana dispensaries and raises taxes by a small amount on medicinal pot, would win by a comfortable margin.
- Defending California's Senate Democratic Supermajority – We are polling on behalf of an IE in the California State Senate District 16 special election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio. In an open primary field with three Democrats and only one Republican, our research helped guide a successful effort to significantly boost Democrat Leticia Perez's support among Latinos to force a run-off and deny victory to a Tea Party Republican.
October 29th, 2012 · News
In a New Capitol Weekly Article, Pollster Ben Tulchin Breaks Down What You Need to Know as a Consumer of Polling DataTo paraphrase a line from the movie “Hustle & Flow” and its soundtrack, it is hard out here for a pollster these days. Between declining landline participation rates, the steady rise of cell phone use, the prevalence of cheap “robo polls”, the emergence of on-line polling, the “top-two” primary system in California that has resulted in candidates from the same party facing off in November, and a lot of noise due to the ever-increasing amount of polling data available (some good, some not so good), the pressure on a pollster to figure out what is really going on has never been greater at any time since polling established itself as a required and necessary component of modern-day campaigns. So what are pollsters and the campaigns and political junkies that rely on them to do this election? Now let me address some of the main challenges facing pollsters and consumers of polling data. Landline vs. cell phones – This is a legitimate challenge as many as 1/3 of households have cell phones and no landline and this number is rising every year. Furthermore, those who have cell phones are disproportionately younger and urban (and include many voters of color) and tend to vote more Democratic. It’s more difficult and expensive to call cell phones as pollsters have to manually dial these numbers unlike with landlines where we can auto-dial them. Based on my own polling as well as studying polls from around the country, especially on the presidential race, undersampling cell phones can undercount support for Democratic candidates, especially in districts with large urban and minority populations. The good news is that pollsters can call cell phones. In fact, cell phone numbers are on the voter file, so when doing voter surveys drawn from lists of voters, it is feasible to call both landlines and cell phones with surveys done using live callers. Most legitimate pollsters call cell phones, though some may not or may call fewer than they should to save costs and this could have an impact on the results. California’s new “Top 2” system – If anyone tells you they know how these top 2 races will play out when two candidates from the same party face each other in November, do not believe them. We are in total unchartered waters on this. In races where two Republicans are facing off against one another, it is impossible to predict how Democrats or no party preference voters are going to behave. The same goes for two Democrats running against each other and how Republican and no party preference voters will vote. These voters appear to be up for grabs, but many may not cast a ballot in the race. So the key to look for on election night is just how many votes are cast in these “top 2” races to see if voters from the odd-party-out choose a candidate or take a pass on the race. Robo-polls (also known as “IVR” (Instant Voice Recognition) – Some are good; some are bad. The two biggest problems with this methodology is robo-polls can’t call cell phones (see above) and, since they are automated, there is no way to confirm the person on the other end is who they say they are (e.g. male or female). To be fair, some robo-polls have been fairly accurate over the years – their track record is better closer to the election when voters have heard more about the candidates or ballot measure. But there are some really bad ones. Rasmussen Reports, for example is evil, pure evil. They are not real pollsters. They do not try to make their surveys representative. Instead, they are pushing an agenda by putting out polls that tilt heavily conservative and Republican in an effort to shape the broader political narrative. If there is one thing you take away from this column, it is to PLEASE disavow polls done by Rasmussen Reports and to tell everyone you know that they are bogus. Online surveys – Surveys conducted online are an emerging trend in the polling business. While some traditional pollsters look at online polls skeptically, I believe there is a place for them in our profession and they could very well be the dominant methodology in the future. At present, they are still a developing field and their results now sometimes diverge from telephone surveys. Therefore, this election will be an important test for them to see how online results compare to traditional telephone surveys in predicting the outcome of elections. Most interesting to watch will be how they perform in assessing ballot measures, since they offer a potentially more realistic way of having voters “read” a ballot measure and then “voting” on it online as opposed to having to listen to what is often complicated language over the phone and trying to decide on the spot whether to support or oppose a measure. So stay tuned for the results on this. Presidential polling – The Super Bowl of campaigns, and much of the political world and polling are focused on the presidential race. This year, there is a preponderance of polls and it’s a close election, making polling all that more relevant and interesting. At least that’s what all the polls tell us! So what’s to make of all the polls on the presidential race (national polls, swing state polls, etc.)? Well, since all polls have a margin of error, it is impossible to say which poll is right. Nevertheless, I recommend using the lessons above as your guide – rely on quality pollsters that call both landline and cell phones and which use live callers; reference multiple polls to compare results; and don’t watch them every day but rather every few days, since polls can bounce around day to day due to statistical variance.
The bottom line is polling still works when done right. But remember, polls are a snap shot in time and they have a margin of error, so factor that in when interpreting the results. Above all, like with most things, polling is perfectly healthy as long as it is consumed in moderation.
The original article can be read on the Capitol Weekly Website.