Texas Insider Report: WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Gallup Poll released just as Mr. Obama was ramping up his attacks on Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, showed that when it comes to prioritizing, what’s now more important than ensuring whether or not a child receives a better education is, for most Americans, balancing the Federal Budget.
As President Obama continued to assail the Republican presidential ticket for pushing a budget blueprint that could cut education spending, polling data showed the vast majority of Americans think getting the U.S. back on solid fiscal footing trumps increasing school funding.
A survey by Gallup and the Phi Delta Kappa International education association found that 60% of Americans think it’s more important to balance the federal budget than to “improve the quality of education.”
The poll indicates a seismic shift in public attitudes toward education as a national priority, at least when compared with the pressing need to slash federal spending.
Analysts said the poll doesn’t mean that the country cares less about education than it did 16 years ago, but rather shows a restlessness stemming from the weak economic recovery, annual deficits and the ballooning national debt.
“I think it reflects a degree of concern about the federal budget that just didn’t exist back in 1996, when the results [of the Gallup question] were the opposite,” said John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University.
“The percentage of people concerned about the deficit is only slightly higher than those concerned about education. It’s not that people don’t think education is important; it’s just that when you juxtapose the two alternatives, the budget deficit takes precedence,” he said.
In an attempt to widen his lead on the issue, Mr. Obama unleashed a series of attacks on the Republicans, suggesting that if Mr. Romney was elected, he would take a hatchet to education spending.
During one of the president’s regular weekly radio addresses, he even said the Republicans’ plan “means fewer kids in Head Start, fewer teachers in our classrooms” and other consequences. “That plan doesn’t invest in our future; it undercuts our future,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama long has called for increased federal spending in education as a way to spur economic growth at home and ensure that the U.S. remains competitive with other nations.
Mr. Ryan is the author of the most recent Republican budget plan, which calls for significant cuts in discretionary spending, including reductions aimed at the Department of Education.