McLaughlin's Common Core Poll Was Propaganda, Not News; Why Didn't the Media Say So?

During the first week in May, the media reported the results of a Common Core poll conducted by Republican pollster John McLaughlin. The Collaborative for Student Success was identified as the organization that commissioned and funded the poll. Since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a partner in this organization and has invested hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars promoting Common Core across the U.S., one wonders why the poll wasn't analyzed for objectivity before being reported as news.

The poll identified Republican primary voters and "swing" or undecided voters. An initial basic question (#9) seeking voter views on Common Core, the nation's newly implemented K-12 educational program, generated a mixed reaction to the Common Core standards (35% approval; 33% disapproval; 32% don't know). McLaughlin claimed support soared to a two-thirds majority for Common Core when it was explained in "simple, neutral" language; previously uninformed voters end up supporting the standards.

The question that generated the two-thirds figure was the following (#12): "Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are simply a set of standards in Math and English which state what a child should know in both subjects by the end of each grade of school they complete…Knowing this, do you approve or disapprove of the CCSS?" This question included a generic definition of "learning standards" not specific to Common Core. Yet thinking they had new information, voters almost doubled their approval of Common Core.

Twenty-one hypothetical questions incorporating mostly misleading information followed in an attempt to raise the approval rating for Common Core. Over 70% of these questions were prefaced with: "If you knew the following statements about CCSS were true, would each make you more likely or less likely to support CCSS?" This is a big IF, since most of the statements that followed were irrelevant like the definition of "learning standards"; the opinion of sources paid to promote Common Core (for example, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute); and/or false (for example, that Common Core's standards were rigorous and internationally benchmarked.) One wonders if the questions were designed to find out what false talking points would be the most effective to propagate in the future, as well as to inflate the approval rating on the poll.

Later questions asked voters to choose whether they approve or disapprove of CCSS (#34) and whether they are more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports CCSS (#35), knowing what they know now. "Now" apparently means after assimilating promotional, misleading, or false information!

McLaughlin didn't advertise that his figures were reversed on the three questions where he incorporated true information about Common Core regarding data mining (#33), teaching to the test (#25), and the special interests that bribed the states to accept CCSS (#28). These questions averaged 58% against and 29% pro Common Core, almost the exact opposite of the results on the misleading questions which averaged 58% pro and 27% against Common Core.

In his findings, McLaughlin had a very political message to offer Republican candidates, who have been the most vocal against Common Core. He suggested that they steer clear of anti-Common Core remarks in seeking election or risk losing Republican and swing voters.

But even before McLaughlin's results were released to the press, his theory began crumbling. In Florida's 19th Congressional District Republican primary where Common Core was an issue, anti-Common Core candidate Curt Clawson scored a decisive victory on April 22nd. His main rival was the choice of GOP establishment/Common Core proponent Jeb Bush. And again on May 6th, the day after the poll results were released, two Indiana State House incumbents running for re-election, were trounced by anti-Common Core candidates who made their opponents' refusal to help stop Common Core a central campaign issue.

McLaughlin could easily have offered a very different message based on his own poll data: that when TRUE information is given to voters, they are more likely to be AGAINST Common Core. In fact, this is exactly what a similar and more recent University of Connecticut poll found using straightforward questions. The more people knew about the standards, the less likely they were to support Common Core.

The groundswell of spontaneous grassroots resistance all over the country is educating the public to the truth about Common Core. Unfortunately, the media missed the elephant in the room on the McLaughlin poll: that this groundswell has motivated people and/or organizations with vested interests in Common Core to attempt to silence Republican candidates speaking out against Common Core by using survey research to manipulate, not inform. For the original survey, go here.

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