Are We Paying Our Teachers Enough? Most Americans Say “No”

Six in ten adults think teachers in the United States are paid too little and that too little money is spent on public schools

05:00 AM EDT Oct 13, 2015 Rating
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Are We Paying Our Teachers Enough?  Most Americans Say “No”

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Six in ten Americans (60%) see teaching as a prestigious occupation, but clearly they don’t think our educators’ salaries are in line with this status: six in ten also believe that teachers in the United States are paid too little (60%) and that too little money is spent nationally on public schools (61%). 

Looking locally, majorities are also unsatisfied with teacher salaries and public school spending in their communities.  Fifty-four percent of Americans feel teachers in their local area are paid too little, on par with where it was in 2009 and back up eight points from 2012’s dip to 46%.  Meanwhile, half of adults (51%) feel that too little money is spent on the public schools in their community (same as the 51% in 2009 and similar to the 50% in 2012).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,273 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015.

Political POVs

With a Presidential election on the horizon, education is working its way up as a major issue under voter consideration.  Seven in ten Democrats believe teachers in the United States are paid too little (71%), while nearly six in ten Independents (58%) and just under half of Republicans (49%) feel the same.  Roughly three in ten Republicans (31%) and one-fourth of Independents (26%) feel that teachers are paid the right amount nationally, while only 17% of Democrats feel this way.

As for public school spending, similar patterns appear.

Regional differences when looking locally

Two-thirds in the South, and majorities in the Midwest and West, feel that teachers in their local areas are paid too little (67%, 53%, & 54%, respectively).  On the other hand, a plurality of Americans in the East believes their communities’ teachers are paid about the right amount (41%, with 37% believing they’re paid too little).

Looking at local public school spending, over half of Americans in the South, Midwest, and West, and a plurality of those in the East, believe their communities are spending too little.

 

 

 


TABLE 1A

PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – TREND

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in your community are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

2015

2012

2009

2008

1965

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

8

12

8

6

2

About the right amount

30

33

29

24

56

Too little

54

46

54

59

42

Not sure

8

9

10

10

n/a

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Note: 1965 survey conducted face-to-face; data should be used for comparison purposes only, and not as a direct trend.

 

TABLE 1B

PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN LOCAL COMMUNITY

By region and metro status

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in your community are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Region

Metro Status

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

8

15

9

2

8

6

8

10

About the right amount

30

41

30

24

29

29

31

28

Too little

54

37

53

67

54

58

52

55

Not sure

8

8

8

7

9

7

8

8

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 1C

PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN LOCAL COMMUNITY

By political party and political philosophy

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in your community are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party Identification

Political Philosophy

 

Rep

Dem

Ind

Con

Mod

Lib

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

8

11

4

10

15

6

3

About the right amount

30

37

25

31

36

31

21

Too little

54

45

64

52

42

55

68

Not sure

8

7

7

7

8

8

9

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 2A

PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN LOCAL COMMUNITY – TREND

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in your community?”

Base: All adults

 

2015

2012

2009

2008

1965

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

13

15

14

13

12

About the right amount

27

27

26

20

56

Too little

51

50

51

57

32

Not sure

9

8

9

10

n/a

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Note: 1965 survey conducted face-to-face; data should be used for comparison purposes only, and not as a direct trend.

 

 

TABLE 2B

PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN LOCAL COMMUNITY

By region and metro status

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in your community?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Region

Metro Status

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

13

18

14

9

15

13

12

15

About the right amount

27

34

25

25

24

17

33

24

Too little

51

42

51

57

53

62

46

54

Not sure

9

6

10

10

9

9

10

7

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 2C

PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN LOCAL COMMUNITY

By political party and political philosophy

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in your community?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party Identification

Political Philosophy

 

Rep

Dem

Ind

Con

Mod

Lib

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

13

19

4

18

22

12

4

About the right amount

27

33

26

25

31

28

19

Too little

51

41

61

48

39

51

69

Not sure

9

7

9

8

8

10

7

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 


TABLE 3A

NATIONAL AND LOCAL PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in … are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

The United States

Your Local Area

%

%

Too much

8

8

About the right amount

24

30

Too little

60

54

Not sure

8

8

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 3B

PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN THE UNITED STATES

By region and metro status

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in The United States are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Region

Metro Status

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

8

13

10

3

10

7

9

10

About the right amount

24

32

21

22

21

23

25

22

Too little

60

48

60

69

60

62

59

62

Not sure

8

7

9

7

8

8

8

7

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3C

PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHER INCOME IN THE UNITED STATES

By political party and political philosophy

“Do you feel teachers in the public schools in The United States are paid too little, too much or about the right amount?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party Identification

Political Philosophy

 

Rep

Dem

Ind

Con

Mod

Lib

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

8

12

6

9

17

6

2

About the right amount

24

31

17

26

28

25

16

Too little

60

49

71

58

45

62

76

61Not sure

8

8

6

7

9

7

7

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 


TABLE 4A

NATIONAL AND LOCAL PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in…?”

Base: All adults

 

The United States

Your Local Area

%

%

Too much

12

13

About the right amount

19

27

Too little

61

51

Not sure

8

9

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4B

PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN THE UNITED STATES

By region and metro status

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in The United States?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Region

Metro Status

East

Midwest

South

West

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

12

14

13

9

14

13

10

15

About the right amount

19

27

17

17

17

16

22

17

Too little

61

52

62

67

60

62

66

58

Not sure

8

8

8

8

9

7

6

10

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

TABLE 4C

PERCEPTIONS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SPENDING IN THE UNITED STATES

By political party and political philosophy

“Do you feel too little, too much, or about the right amount of money is being spent on public schools in The United States?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Party Identification

Political Philosophy

 

Rep

Dem

Ind

Con

Mod

Lib

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Too much

12

18

5

15

23

10

2

About the right amount

19

23

19

17

22

20

13

Too little

61

51

71

59

46

61

81

Not sure

8

8

6

8

9

9

4

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,273 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

 

The Harris Poll® #62, October 13, 2015

By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst 

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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