Young students walking down hallway of elementary school.
Young students walking down hallway of elementary school. (Getty Images)

A majority of Americans think that today's K-12 students are receiving an "only fair" or "poor" education, according to a new Yahoo News/You Gov poll. Only 16% of Republicans think education is better.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that today's K-12 students are getting a better education than they did, and less likely to say that it's worse.

In light of the ongoing culture wars over how to talk and teach about race, gender, sexual orientation and U.S. history in schools, there are likely to be disagreements between Democrats and Republicans.

Protesters line a balcony with signs that read: We support health freedom and Parental rights.
Protesters at a health, freedom and parental rights rally at the state capitol in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 3. (Michael Siluk/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

They show a deeper and more distressing divide. Belief in the American Dream, the ideal embodied by education, that each successive generation will be better off than the one before it, is becoming more and more divided according to a Yahoo News/You Gov poll.

Republicans are more likely to think that American education is getting worse. They are more likely to think that American life is not getting better.

There is a surprising level of agreement when Democrats and Republicans are asked to assess their own educational experience. More than three out of four Americans rate the education they received as excellent or good, while only 21% rate it as fair or poor.

Bar graph titled: Just 25% of Americans say U.S. students are receiving a better education today than they did.

Republicans are more likely to describe the opportunities that were available to them as excellent or good.

When Republicans are asked about education, their attitudes change a lot.

The number of people who rate current K-12 education positively is less than the number who rate their own education. Less than a third of students give a good or excellent rating to the opportunities available to them.

A majority of Democrats give positive ratings to education and opportunities. 42% and 34% rate them negatively.

The classroom culture wars that have gripped school boards and statewide elections in recent months may be to blame for all of this. According to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on how to address race, gender, sexuality and U.S. history in schools.

Two-thirds of Republicans identify "parents not having enough say over what is taught" as a major problem, while just 26% of Democrats agree. Roughly the same number of Republicans believe that the political viewpoint of what U.S. students are being taught in school today is liberal.

There are actual lessons on certain subjects.

  • The things students are learning about U.S. history are not accurate according to a majority of Republicans.

  • A majority of Republicans think that the things students are learning about U.S. race relations are incorrect.

  • A majority of Republicans say the things students are learning about gender and sexuality are incorrect, while Democrats say the opposite.

The Republican trendlines are moving in the wrong direction. Most people don't think that the things they learned in school are accurate. The majority of Republicans said their own lessons on these subjects were correct.

Most Republicans think that the best policy is not to teach about gender identity, sexual orientation, gay rights, trans rights or even general sex education in elementary schools.

The current classroom debates over race, gender, sexuality and U.S. history may be symptoms of a bigger problem.

Consider how Democrats and Republicans respond to questions about the future.

  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that you are better off than your parents.

  • Almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans say the next generation will be better or worse off than yours.

  • A plurality of Democrats say they feel the same as they did when they were younger, while a majority of Republicans say they feel better.

  • Republicans are more likely to say that America's best days are behind them.

Race and class are embedded in this pessimism. White Americans are more likely to think that the next generation will be worse off than they are to think that they will be better off. Black Americans are 42% better off than Hispanics are 27% worse off.

Positive ratings for education are lower for white Americans than they are for blacks, Hispanics, and those with family incomes under $50,000 per year.

The share of white Americans who say education is worse than when they were students is twice as large as the share of black Americans who say the same.

It is difficult to separate the question of whether American education is getting better or worse for all Americans from the question of whether it is getting better or worse for you. That could be the crux of the conflict. Less than half of Black Americans and less than a third of Hispanic Americans think the opportunities available to them after finishing school are good. They are more likely to say that things are better now than they were in the past.

When they sort themselves along partisan lines, the issue of identity gets tricky.

A huge majority of Democrats think Black people have too little influence in America. Only a small number of Republicans agree. More Republicans than Democrats think black people have too much influence.

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say that white people have too little influence in the country.

The influence of minorities in the United States has only grown over time. The direction of American life and the quality of American education are reflected in a new poll by Yahoo News and You Gov.

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The Yahoo News survey used a nationally representative sample of 1,555 US adults to conduct. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote. The American Community Survey has demographic weights. The baseline party identification is the most recent answer given before March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time. The respondents were selected from the opt-in panel. There is a margin of error.