Ed Next readers—or at least those who participate in our polls—are not all that different from the public at large, except that they seem to know more about the issues and are thus more inclined to take a position on them. That’s what we discovered when we asked the same questions of readers as were posed to a representative cross-section of the public as a whole in 2011.
When we asked our readers whether they favored or opposed school vouchers, 42 percent said they favored them, just a bit more than the 39 percent of the general public who gave a similar answer.
Our readers are more likely to have opinions on charter schools than the public as a whole (all but 7 percent take a position in contrast to the 39 percent of the public who take a pass on this item), but the ratio of support to opposition is roughly the same: about 3:1.
The same is true with learning online. All but 5 percent of our readers are ready to take a position on the issue, as compared to just 26 percent of the public as a whole. But the ratio of support to opposition is, again, close to 3:1 among both readers and the national public.
Ed Next readers are also more likely to take a position on merit pay. All but 4 percent choose one side or the other, as compared to 26 percent of the public as a whole who take no position. Readers are supportive of the idea but not by as wide a margin. They are 15 percentage points more likely to support the idea than oppose it, as compared to a 20 percentage point difference among the public as a whole.
But as for teacher unions, readers are more likely to think they have done more harm than good. While the public as a whole is split down the middle, readers are nearly twice as likely to think they are a stumbling block to school reform.
So I guess the editors of the journal can claim we are influencing public opinion. The public thinks as our readers think, and our readers’ understanding is shaped by the facts and figures Ed Next reports. But as one of our presidents once said, that would be wrong. No such conclusion can be drawn. All that can really be said is that our readers are more ready to take a position on the issues, and that our readers appear to constitute a cross-section of the thinking in the larger society.