Most Teachers Believe Public Educators Are Not Paid Fairly, Have Thought About Leaving the Profession

USA Today/Ipsos poll examines views on teacher pay, strikes, quality of education, and unions

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, January 22, 2019 — In the midst of protests staged by Los Angeles teachers, Ipsos examined the outlook and attitudes of K-12 teachers nationwide. This poll, conducted in collaboration with USA TODAY, found that more than seven in ten (77%) school teachers agree that they have the right to strike. This is higher than a USA Today/Ipsos poll of the general public last September, when 66% of Americans agreed that public school teachers have the right to protest.

Teachers face many barriers to educating their pupils, as they feel that they don’t receive enough resources. Nearly eight in ten (79%) teachers report purchasing school supplies with their own money, and 64% have spent time outside school hours to help children. Half (52%) of teachers spend anywhere from 5 to 15 hours a week outside of work to complete paperwork. At the same time, some teachers report being stretched financially: 38% of teachers have worked a second job to make ends meet and 29% have ran up debt to make ends meet. Despite these setbacks, 92% of teachers say they love being a teacher and 73% said that if they could pick a career all over again, they would still decide to be teachers (including 45% who strongly agree with this sentiment).

When asked about the state of their school systems, a majority of teachers (62%) say that public schools are doing a better job of educating students than they were 10 years ago. On the other hand, sentiments toward charter schools are mixed: 62% of teachers agree that charter schools require more oversight and regulation, and that charter schools take money and good students away from public schools (59%). About half of teachers (53%) believe that charter schools don’t pay teachers enough and that private and charter schools usually provide a better education than public schools (47%). Teachers (47%) are less likely than the general public (60%) to believe charter schools provide better education than public schools. Teachers who belong to a union are more likely to believe that charter schools would benefit from unions (56%) than non-unionized teachers (37%).

Sentiments toward unions and educational leadership vary based on union membership. Eight in ten (81%) unionized teachers approve of their local teachers’ union. This approval drops by nearly half to 44% among non-unionized teachers. When it comes to their state union leadership, 79% of unionized teachers approve while 42% of non-unionized teachers approve. Approval of the national teacher’s union stands at 77% among unionized teachers and 51% among non-unionized teachers. Unionized teachers have a stronger belief that teachers’ unions improve the quality of education (79%) than non-unionized teachers (53%), and they are also more likely to believe that teachers’ unions improve the quality of teachers (75% vs. 52% non-union). There is one place of agreement, however; both unionized (62%) and non-unionized teachers (64%) agree that unions make it harder to fire bad teachers.

Thinking about their motivations to become a teacher, virtually all say that they became a teacher because they like teaching children and teens (94%). 77% of them also said that they became a teacher because they wanted a stable career. Almost eight in ten teachers agree that public schools are worth the tax money that goes into them (78%) and more than half encourage their own children (56%) and their best students (54%) to become teachers.


About the Study

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted January 11 - 17, 2019. For the survey, a sample of 504 teachers age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii were interviewed online in English. The sample includes 236 unionized teachers, and 239 non-unionized teachers.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online nonprobability sampling polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=504, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=6.5.

The poll also has a credibility interval plus or minus 7.3 percentage points for unionized teachers and, plus or minus 7.3 for non-unionized teachers.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2025
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Director, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 202 420-2014
[email protected]


About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. Through our media partnerships, Ipsos Public Affairs is a leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and internationally. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.
With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,780.5 million in 2017.

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs

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