As early ballot voting is underway for Proposition 123, many school districts and education supporters are deep in the midst of considering potential overrides and bonds for later this year. The deadline for referring items to the November 2016 General Election is fast approaching. For some, November has been the plan all along, and for others, they simply cannot wait any longer.
In some ways, November 2016 is a perfect time for school elections – there will be more focus on education issues during a Presidential Election cycle, higher voter participation, and increased younger voter participation. On the other hand, education supporters are right to be concerned. November would be the second time in less than a year that they would be asking the voters to fund education. Do voters continue to believe that education is underfunded or will they say enough is enough? Will the grassroots support for education be able to rally twice in the same year? Do voters believe that they have solved our education challenges?
Advocates should strongly consider public opinion survey testing these questions and others before moving forward with calling an election.
It used to be that most school bonds and overrides passed handily. In more recent years, voter skepticism has increased and voters have been less inclined to part with their money. However, election results have started to trend towards greater success as districts and advocates have become more responsive to their electorate through accurate, scientific survey research.
Schools have improved their communications with voters and education advocates have done a good job of utilizing messaging that appeals to the more than 70% of the electorate that do not have children under 18 at home. Modern approaches include discussions of quality of life, property values, attracting jobs, and workforce training. The old “apples and chalkboards” approach has mostly fallen by the wayside.
HighGround has performed surveys for clients on a wide variety of statewide and local issues including school funding, school bonds, school overrides, transportation, Medicaid Restoration, local ballot initiatives, and candidate campaigns, among others. As we have said before, our team is committed to unbiased research – telling our clients the good, the bad, and the ugly. We test both positive and negative messages because we believe that clients deserve the impartial truth.
Education advocates should seek an independent review of their school proposals, education funding in general, and how Proposition 123 impacts their chances prior to making a final decision regarding November.
A survey is a wise investment to better understand the electorate and the art of the possible before calling an election. If you are looking for a survey partner, contact us to see the difference.