Oklahomans’ support for school choice is becoming difficult to deny

March 9, 2016

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:

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:

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

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.