Americans see education system as unequal, yet still a “great equalizer”

New Axios/Ipsos poll shows Americans want to learn more about the role of Black, Hispanic, Native and Asian Americans in building this country

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, November 14, 2020

According to a new Axios/Ipsos poll, conducted as part of Axios’ Hard Truths series, most Americans from different racial or ethnic backgrounds agree that education is still the great equalizer in America. And yet, eight in ten recognize that public education in this country is unequal, with different outcomes based on where you live. Furthermore, Americans’ own experiences within the educational system vary along racial/ethnic lines.

 1. Large majorities of Americans see education as a path to betterment. But just as many recognize that our current education system offers unequal opportunities, and changes must be made.

  • Seventy percent agree that, in America, education is still the great equalizer. This includes 72% of white respondents, 71% of Asian respondents, 69% of Black respondents, and 65% of Hispanic respondents.
  • However, even more – 80% – say public education in America is unequal. Black Americans are most likely to say this (88%), followed by Asian Americans (82%), and Hispanic and white Americans (79% for both).
  • Overall, Americans are split on whether public schools in the U.S. are equipped to help children of all races and ethnicities get ahead. Fifty-one percent agree, and 48% disagree. A majority of Hispanic (54%) and white (52%) respondents agree, while most Asian and Black respondents disagree (53% and 59%, respectively).

image2. Americans appear to be reckoning with America’s past and want to see more taught in schools about the contributions of non-white people.

  • More than two-thirds (68%) agree public schools in the U.S. should teach more about racism as part of American history lessons. While majorities across all racial and ethnic groups agree, significantly more Black Americans agree, compared to white Americans (88% vs. 62%, respectively).
  • Majorities say that when they were in school, they did not receive enough education about the role African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans played in building America. This ranges from 57% to 66% saying they did not receive enough education about these groups of people.
  • In a series of knowledge questions about American history, just over one in ten (12%) of Americans correctly answered all five, while 23% answered four correctly, and a plurality, 34%, got three out of five right.
  • Those that got fewer of the history questions correct are less likely to agree that public schools should teach more about racism. Among those with an ‘A’ grade (5/5 right), 82% agree with this statement, compared to 63% with an ‘F’ grade (1 or fewer correct).

3. Significant differences emerge along racial lines when asking about public school funding and aspects of their own educational experience.

  • Seventy-seven percent of white respondents agree that the high school they attended received sufficient funding, compared to just 57% of Black and 55% of Hispanic respondents who say the same.
  • Overall, three-quarters (74%) agree that schools in low-income areas should receive more state or federal funding than those in wealthy areas. Under the surface, however, there are some prominent differences.
  • Sixty percent of Black Americans strongly agree with this sentiment, compared to just 25% of white Americans. There is a nearly 20-point difference on overall agreement (88% of Black Americans agree compared to 69% of white Americans).
  • Among partisans, there is a 30- percentage point difference in agreement: 87% of Democrats agree schools in low-income areas should receive more funding, versus 57% of Republicans. This difference in agreement by party ID is the largest difference in opinion at the subgroup level.
  • A similar pattern emerges when it comes to paying more in taxes if money went directly to local schools. Seventy percent of Black Americans agree, compared to 53% of white Americans. Once again, the partisan split is even greater: 73% of Democrats agree, versus 42% of Republicans.

To request the crosstabs or more detailed demographic information, please contact [email protected]

About the Study

This Axios/Ipsos Education Inequity poll was conducted November 4th to November 12th, 2020 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,999 general population adults age 18 or older.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households are randomly sampled from all available households in the U.S. All persons in selected households are invited to join and participate in KnowledgePanel. Ipsos provides selected households that do not already have internet access a tablet and internet connection at no cost to them. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methods, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, race/ethnicity by gender, race/ethnicity by age, race/ethnicity by education and race/ethnicity by region. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2020 March supplement of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (Less than High School, High School graduate, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Asian Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by gender (Male, Female)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Asian Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by age (18-44, 45+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Asian Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by education (Less than college grad, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Other non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Asian Non-Hispanic, Hispanic) by Census region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.16. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs