Poll Confirms Education Motivating Issue For VA Voters In 2021 Election; Likely to be Major Factor in Midterms

Press Releases

November 22, 2021


Warning For Democrats: Voters Want Leadership on Education Issues; Will Follow Whoever Steps Up With Right Message

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Nov. 22, 2021)—A new poll, jointly released today by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Murmuration found that education was one of the primary issues voters considered when casting their ballots in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election. Republicans–with Democrats’ help—turned a natural Democratic advantage into a Republican strength by playing into parents’ frustrations.

Of voters who ranked education as a top issue (21% overall), a whopping 70% voted for Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. These results underscore a concerning trend for Democrats—once the party of education—who have ceded ground to Republicans on the issue, as national polls show trust in Democrats shrinking from a 20-point advantage in the beginning of 2021, to a mere 7-point advantage this month.

Education issues were especially salient with Republicans, as well as voters who did not turn out in 2017, indicating the issue drove turnout for Youngkin. Nearly two thirds of voters who ranked education as their top issue were Republican, and education ranked highest for voters who did not vote in 2017; Youngkin won this group 57% to 40%.

Voters across demographics found Youngkin’s stated support to “invest more in schools, raise teacher pay, and demand better performance from our schools” (66%) convincing, including 28% of Biden voters.

Among Republicans, in particular, protecting parental involvement was an especially resonant message (96%), while Biden voters noted concerns over prolonged school closures based on unions, not science, as the most resonant argument against Terry McAuliffe (28%).  Prolonged school closures was also a highly resonant message among parents (46%).

“A high-quality public education has long been a tenet of the Democratic party, yet we didn’t see that come through in Virginia and it cost us the election,” said DFER National President Shavar Jeffries. “This isn’t about culture wars. It’s about frustrated voters—and parents—who want to be heard and who want increased opportunities for their children. The 2022 midterms will hinge on Democrats’ ability to learn from these lessons and lead on education.”

“Frustration and stress over the continued disruption to school resulting from the pandemic, and the response from political and educational leaders, is a big issue for parents, and absolutely influenced voters’ decisions in the recent election,” said Emma Bloomberg, CEO of Murmuration. “Education is now very much a part of the national discussion—as it should be—and we should be listening to parents to understand how to address their issues more effectively. The key to winning the growing number of education-first voters is to listen and engage the millions of parents who are focused on better, safer, and more equitable schools.”

The poll was commissioned by DFER partner organization Education Reform Now Advocacy and Murmuration, a multi-partisan, political strategy organization focused on education, and was conducted by national polling firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, in consultation with SocialSphere. Findings were based on live phone and text-to-web survey conducted Nov. 10-15, among 500 2021 general election voters in Virginia. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 4.4%. You can view the full results here. Crosstabs available on request.

About Democrats for Education Reform
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a national political organization that supports elected Democrats and candidates for office who seek to expand policies and practices that increase educational equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. It is a partner organization of Education Reform Now Advocacy, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that supports DFER’s legislative and policy advocacy work. www.dfer.org.

About Murmuration
Murmuration is a multi-partisan, political strategy organization. We provide sophisticated data and analytics, proprietary technology, strategic guidance, and programmatic support to help our partners build political power and marshal support so necessary improvements are made to our public schools. Our team includes experts and innovators in data, analytics, technology, and strategy. We are former teachers, organizers, data scientists, nonprofit executives, and political campaign veterans. For more information visit www.murmuration.org.