Why The Government’s Role in the Classroom Can Decide Elections

Though political platforms are full of views on a diverse set of issues, elections can often be decided by a candidate’s views on one or two key issues. This phenomenon was notably illustrated by the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, in which Glenn Youngkin pulled off an upset victory against  former then-incumbent Governor Terry McAuliffe. Though popularity polls and common wisdom called the election in McAuliffe’s favor, the candidates’ positions on government intervention in the classroom became the turning point in the election.

During a gubernatorial debate, Youngkin expressed support for a “pro-parent” approach to the classroom, while McAuliffe commented, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Because the population of Virginia did not agree with this sentiment, Youngkin became the unlikely winner of the election.

Data collected by online focus group company and survey data collector John Zogby Strategies shows the array of opinions surrounding government intervention in classrooms. Youngkin’s “pro-parent approach” has garnered widespread approval among Republican and independent voters. Also, people from all across the political spectrum believe the government exerts too much control over the classroom, including liberals (41%), conservatives (57%), parents of young children (49%), and women (49%).

While government intervention in the classroom may seem less important than issues such as economic policies, it appears to be a key issue in many citizens’ minds. For this reason, political candidates from both parties should pay special attention to the way they frame and present their views on this issue. It may mean the difference between winning and losing crucial votes in the next election.