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Growing support for early childhood education in North Carolina

North Carolinians of all political persuasions are showing increased support for funding of early childhood education in the state, according to a poll released today by the North Carolina Early Childhood Education Foundation (NCECF) and the First Five Years Fund (FFYF).

According to the poll, most (84 percent) state voters want to expand the state’s early childhood education programs: Smart Start and NC Pre-K. This holds true across party lines with 70 percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Independents, and 92 percent of Democrats saying they support increased funding for the two programs.

(Infographics courtesy of NCECF)
(Infographics courtesy of NCECF)

“North Carolina voters wholeheartedly agree that building a stronger North Carolina is rooted in ensuring our children have a strong start,” said Tracy Zimmerman, NCECF executive director, in a press release. “There are few issues that enjoy this level of bipartisan support. Every candidate for public office should have an early learning strategy, and voters should ask them about their plans.”

The results also indicate a steady change in sentiment amongst Republicans and Independents since 2014. The percent of Republicans in support has increased by 20 points since then, and Independent support has gone up by 14 percent.

When listing priorities, 86 percent of state voters agree that “making sure our children get a strong start in life through quality early childhood education is extremely or very important to them personally.” In contrast, only 71 percent felt that reducing the tax burden on families was extremely or very important, and only 50 percent felt that low-cost or free college was extremely or very important. Improving the quality of education (90 percent) and controlling health care costs (88 percent) were the top two issues for voters.

The poll also showed that while voters support early childhood education, they feel there is a lack of good resources to provide it. Sixty six percent of voters said that “half or fewer of the early childhood programs in their area are both affordable and high-quality.”

unnamed-1Ninety percent of voters said that early education and childcare should be more affordable to working families. Broken down by political party, 78 percent of Republicans, 93 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats agreed.

The poll also indicates that support of early childhood education could be a winning position for politicians. Fifty eight percent of voters said they would view a candidate with such a position “much more” favorably. Five percent said support for early childhood education would make them like a candidate less.

According to the press release from NCECF, the poll was conducted by Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and Democrat-leaning Hart Research Associates. The release also said “The sample was distributed proportionately throughout the state and is demographically representative of the electorate.”

The poll was conducted via telephone (cell and landline) July 26-30, with 500 voters participating. The margin of error was  +/- 4.38%.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.