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Everyone, plus or minus 50%

Headline in the Washington Post: Poll: Most Oppose School Vouchers. That's bad news for those of us who support the concept. Or is it?

Most Americans oppose the use of public funds to help parents send their children to private or church-sponsored schools, a study released yesterday shows.

The 34th annual poll of 1,000 adults, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the educational group Phi Delta Kappa, found that 52 percent of those surveyed opposed the use of state vouchers to expand access to private education.

Still, 46 percent support the voucher program, up from 34 percent a year ago.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Technically, I suppose that 52% would be "most," but it's hardly what most people think of when they hear the word -- and given the poll's margin of error, the headline is just a tad bit misleading. And given that support for vouchers jumped significantly (and this was before the Supreme Court ruled them constitutional), it's an awfully odd story choice.

Moreover, note that the actual poll asked voucher questions in more than one way; phrasing it as "A proposal has been made that would allow parents to send their school-age children to any public, private, or church-related school they choose. For those parents choosing nonpublic schools, the government would pay all or part of the tuition. Would you favor or oppose this proposal in your state?" gave different results. To that question, 52% said they favored vouchers, and 46% said they did not. (Moreover, 63% of minority respondents favored vouchers.)

The real lesson? Reporters write what they want to write, regardless of what the whole story is. (I don't know who's to blame, here. It's a Reuters story in the Washington Post.)


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