Brandon Dutcher | March 9, 2016

Oklahomans’ support for school choice is becoming difficult to deny

Brandon Dutcher

Editor's note: Post updated on Aug. 10, 2016.

Yet another public opinion survey shows that Oklahomans favor school choice.

In a January 2016 survey of likely Oklahoma voters, SoonerPoll asked:

  • “Thinking about education in Oklahoma, school choice gives parents the right to use tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs. Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose the concept of school choice?
    • Strongly favor … 43.0
    • Somewhat favor … 25.6
    • Neutral/don’t know/refused … 13.3
    • Somewhat oppose … 7.2
    • Strongly oppose … 10.9
  • “Education Savings Accounts—often called ESAs—would allow parents to take a portion of the yearly state funding which is currently used to educate their child in a traditional public school and create a personalized account to fund their child’s education expenses. These expenses could be customized to include private or parochial school tuition, online education programs, tutoring, books, and future college expenses. These Education Savings Accounts would be administered and overseen by the state and would contain taxpayer protections against fraudulent activity or misuse of funds. Would you say that you support or oppose the creation of Education Savings Accounts?”
    • Strongly support … 28.9
    • Somewhat support … 27.4
    • Neutral/don’t know/refused … 17.0
    • Somewhat oppose … 12.5
    • Strongly oppose … 14.3

For those of you keeping score at home, here is the recent survey research that has shown strong support for various forms of private-school choice among Oklahomans:

  • Braun Research survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2014
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma GOP primary voters), July 2014
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Tarrance Group survey (registered Oklahoma voters), January 2015
  • Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates survey (registered Oklahoma voters), December 2015
  • SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), January 2016
  • Update: SoonerPoll survey (likely Oklahoma voters), July 2016

And here is the survey research showing that Oklahomans oppose school vouchers (the survey didn't ask about tax-credit scholarships or ESAs):

  • Public Opinion Strategies survey (likely Oklahoma voters), March 2015

In other words, the Public Opinion Strategies poll is very much an outlier. Anyone refusing to acknowledge that fact is simply not being intellectually honest. Moreover, as the state's largest newspaper editorialized, "there's good reason to question the validity of the Public Opinion Strategies poll. As Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll has noted, to believe the POS poll one must also believe Oklahomans are more liberal than residents of heavily Democratic states. That's because polling has found nearly seven out of 10 voters in New Jersey and two out of three voters in New York support school vouchers. In neighboring Arkansas, six out of 10 voters support school vouchers, while in Kansas 57 percent of voters support the proposal and in Texas 66 percent support creating an ESA-style program. Shapard wrote that it is 'a very hard sell to say that Oklahomans, in such a red state that's demographically similar to the surrounding states of Texas, Kansas, or Arkansas, would be so contrary to all of these polls.'"

Like the film critic Pauline Kael, who couldn't understand how Nixon beat McGovern (given that everyone she knew had voted for McGovern), many in the public education community’s epistemic bubble simply cannot come to terms with the reality that most Oklahomans favor educational choice. It must be nothing short of bewildering for them that popular elected officials such as James Lankford, Mary Fallin, Todd Lamb, Scott Pruitt, and others—principled leaders, to be sure, but leaders who aren’t in the habit of being unaware or defiant of public opinion—are such strong proponents of school choice.

Brandon Dutcher Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher

Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine,,, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.

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