The State of the State Survey involves a partnership between the Millsaps College Department of Government and Politics, the Institute for Civic and Professional Engagement at Millsaps, and Chism Strategies. Chism Strategies is a Democrat-leaning polling/advocacy company and does have active political clients engaged in this cycle including Democrat gubernatorial candidate, Jim Hood.
The survey was conducted on June 25-27 with a sample size of 614, with 50% of interviews conducted via cell phone and 50% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/- 3.95%. Results were weighted to reflect the likely voter turnout for the 2019 Mississippi elections.
The survey questioned how lawmakers in Jackson should prioritize the spending of tax dollars. 22% of the voters prioritized public school funding over the funding of roads and bridges and making healthcare more affordable and accessible. However, of the options presented, only about a third of Mississippians support any sort of tax increase or tax cut repeal. Most Mississippians in this survey seem to be pinning revenue hopes to the newly enacted state lottery.
Nearly 70% of the sample agreed that public school spending was too low and that if more money were diverted into the public school system, the priority of the spending should be on teacher salaries, followed by hiring more teachers to reduce the class size.
Additionally, the survey noted the recent $1,500 pay raise for teachers in Mississippi, but the sample stated that it was not enough.
“We believe it is significant that education funding has surpassed fixing roads and bridges for the first time in two years of conducting the State of the State Survey, and that large swaths of the public are united in increasing education funding and improving teacher pay in the midst of a major state election year,” said Dr. Nathan Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. “This particular State of the State Survey was focused largely on exploring how Mississippians perceive some of the challenges facing public education in our state. We also found that voters want to maintain accountability for students, but have mixed feelings about things such as public charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools.”
The results showed that overall, the performance of public education in Mississippi has improved:
- Mississippians have more positive impressions of the quality of the public schools in their own communities (47% excellent/good; 27% poor/failing) than they do of public schools overall in the state (30% excellent/good; 32% poor/failing).
- 60% support the Third Grade Reading Gate program requiring students to pass a state reading exam before moving on to the fourth grade. Just 26% oppose this.
- Over 60% back requiring students to pass a state exam before graduating from high school while 29% are opposed.
- 43% support the formation of public charter schools (which are publicly funded but not managed by the local school boards where they exist), while 42% oppose them.
- A quarter of voters support without limitation allowing parents to receive government money or vouchers to send their kids to private or religious schools while 31% are opposed to this outright. A plurality of 37% say that they support the idea, but only in limited cases involving children with disabilities.
- Nearly three quarters feel that if a family does receive a voucher to pay for tuition at private or religious schools that the schools and students should be held to the same standards for testing and accountability as public schools and public school students.
In addition to surveying the opinions of public education in the state, approval of the state as a whole and its legislature were examined.
Voters are split by race and party lines on the state’s direction with 41% saying that Mississippi is headed in the right direction while 40% say it is heading in the wrong direction. These results differed substantially from the poll commissioned last month by Y’all Politics which said had voters 49/31 on right track vs. wrong track. The Y’all Politics poll was a live call poll to over 600 Mississippi likely voters.
Here are the full results of the study: