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Poll Shows Voters Want States to Fund Quality Preschool for All 3- and 4-Year Olds


August 20, 2002

State governments should provide enough funding so that every American family can afford to send its three-and four-year old children to a high-quality preschool education program. That’s what nearly nine in ten respondents (87%) say in a national survey of 3,230 voters just released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a newly formed institute at Rutgers University.

State Government should provide funding so all parents can afford to enroll children in preschool

The poll shows remarkable support for voluntary, universally available pre-kindergarten, according to NIEER Director Steve Barnett. “Voters across all age groups,” Barnett says, “agree on two points: early education programs should be of high quality and they should be available and affordable to all parents. Voters are frustrated because this isn’t the case right now.”

Survey respondents say the biggest obstacle parents face in finding a good early education program is that many are too expensive (42%). They also say there’s not enough information on finding programs, there aren’t enough good programs, and programs aren’t close to home or work.

Biggest obstacles parents face in finding preschool programs

These obstacles, voters say, can be minimized if state government does more. Most voters surveyed think high-quality programs should be free to all children, regardless of family income. While half (51%) say these programs should be funded from the existing state budget, one-third believe early education is so important they would be willing to pay higher state taxes to fund universal access to quality programs.

Attitude toward preschool programs

The poll also shows that voters believe early education is important for a variety of reasons. Seventy-six percent are convinced participants are more self-confident and better adjusted; 73% believe participants do better when they reach elementary school; and 71% think preschool programs strengthen families by giving parents the resources they need to help their children get a good start.

Only one in five surveyed now have children aged five and under, and Barnett sees the widespread support for early education from adults who aren’t directly impacted as encouraging. “It seems the message is getting through,” he says, “that all of our young children should have access to quality education. Good, affordable programs not only prepare children for success in school, but they also produce tremendous benefits for society. A number of long-term studies show quality programs for young children reduce crime, lower remedial school costs, and increase income levels for mothers and their children over time. That means these programs more than pay for themselves.”

The poll was conducted from November 29 to December 13, 2001, by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Market Strategies. Those questioned include a main sample of 807 voters nationwide and oversamples of approximately 300 voters in each of eight states (Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Oklahoma).

The margin of error for the national sample (3,230 interviews) is 1.7%. The margin of error for the state samples ranges from 5.3% to 5.6%.

The poll was commissioned by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

NIEER (pronounced near) is dedicated to providing nonpartisan research on early education. The Institute was established earlier this year at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education with a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. NIEER is part of the Trusts’ strategy to encourage universal access to high quality early education for 3-and 4-year olds.

More Information:

National poll results