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Almost Half of Texas Voters Support Some Form of School Vouchers

UH-TSU Survey Finds Support Highest Among Black Voters, Churchgoers, Parents of Young Children

In a survey released today, almost half (49%) of Texans say they support using taxpayer money for vouchers to help low-income parents send their children to private schools, compared to a little more than one-quarter (27%) who oppose vouchers. Sixty percent of Black Texans, Texans with school-age children and those who said they attend church at least once a week support vouchers for low-income parents.


The survey from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston and the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University asked likely voters about proposals to provide vouchers in a variety of situations. In every case, about a quarter of respondents strongly supported the proposals, while a slightly smaller percentage were “somewhat” in support. Slightly more than one out of four either strongly or somewhat opposed the plans.

The Texas Legislature is currently considering vouchers in a special session set to end Nov. 7.

“Using public funds to help parents send their children to private schools remains controversial, but we found, overall, that people are more likely to at least somewhat support vouchers than to oppose them,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the Hobby School and one of the researchers. “The split was especially notable among Black voters and those with young children, although there were limits – Black voters are more likely to support vouchers when they are limited to low-income parents.”

Support among parents of school-age children held steady regardless of whether the vouchers target low-income families or are distributed across income levels, she said.

Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and senior research associate at UH’s Hobby School, said researchers found church attendance, partisan identity and the presence at home of children under 18 all shaped respondents’ perceptions. Racial differences proved especially stark, even within partisan allegiances. Support among Black Democrats far outpaced overall Democratic support, he said.

“Democrats in the Texas Legislature have worked with rural Republicans to lead opposition to private school vouchers, but this indicates a significant split between Black Texans and their representatives and senators in Austin,” Jones said.

Fifty-seven percent of Black Democrats supported vouchers for low-income parents, compared to 39% of white Democrats and 45% of Latino Democrats. The gap was even wider among Republicans, with 82% of Black Republicans supportive of vouchers for low-income parents, compared to 56% of white Republicans and 55% of Latino Republicans.

Black voters were similarly more likely to support a proposal like Senate Bill 1, which would create $8,000 education savings accounts for families who pull their children from public schools. S.B. 1 has been approved by the Senate but is stalled in the House. The survey found 41% of voters support the bill, while 24% oppose it; 20% neither support nor oppose it.

Support for the bill rose to 66% for Black Republicans and 51% for Black Democrats, compared to 43% for white Republicans and 44% for white Democrats and 46% for Latino Republicans and 42% for Latino Democrats. Independent voters generally were less supportive, at 43% for Black independents, 35% for Latino independents and 27% for white independent voters.

Where voters live matters, too.

Michael O. Adams, director of the executive master of public affairs graduate program at TSU’s Jordan-Leland School, noted that when considering geography, voters in rural areas were the least likely to support vouchers, while urban residents were generally the most likely to do so.

“Rural areas often have few if any private school options, and the public schools are key employers and community centers,” Adams said. “That likely contributed to lower support.” Thirty-eight percent of rural voters support vouchers for low-income parents, compared to 52% of city voters.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 49% support providing vouchers to low-income parents, with 26% strongly in support. 27% oppose, and 16% say they neither support nor oppose the idea.
  • 47% support vouchers for all parents, regardless of income, 25% strongly. 28% oppose, and 17% neither support nor oppose.
  • 44% support vouchers for low-income parents whose children attend a failing school, 24% strongly. 28/% oppose, and 19% neither support nor oppose.
  • 43% support vouchers for all parents with children attending failing schools, 23% strongly. 28% oppose, and 19% neither support nor oppose.

The full report is available on the Hobby School website.

The survey was conducted between Oct. 6 and Oct. 18 in English and Spanish with 1,914 YouGov respondents 18 years of age and older, resulting in a confidence interval of +/-2.2. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race/ethnicity and education, and are representative of Texas adults.

-Story by Jeannie Kever

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