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Populace, a think tank that “blends research with grassroots advocacy,” just issued the results of a national quantitative survey about Americans’ private opinions about “sensitive topics” in contrast to what they say publicly. One example: when asked publicly, roughly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) say that wearing a mask “was an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19” but fewer than half (47%) agree to the same statement when asked privately. And there were racial differences: 79% of Asian-Americans agree with that statement (78% when asked privately) but only 50% of white people feel that way—and when asked privately, only 42% do.
A group of questions focused on education issues. Here are highlights from that section:
- The biggest gaps between what we say publicly and what we say privately are in education, especially for people between the ages 30-44.
- Among that age group, the vast majority (74%) privately think parents should have more influence over public school curriculums, but only 48% are willing to say so publicly.
- While a majority (60%) of those ages 30-44 say discussing gender identity in public schools is inappropriate for young children in grades kindergarten-third grade, when asked privately only 40% think it’s inappropriate. Overall, “private opinion polling suggests that the American public is more divided. In addition, several groups had such large public-private gaps that they produce a false consensus on this issue, including Independents (25-point gap, with a majority privately disagreeing), Asians (24-point gap, with a majority privately agreeing), and people age 30-44 (20-point gap, with a majority privately disagreeing).”
- When asked if they agree with the statement, “Closing schools and businesses as a response to COVID-19 was an overreaction that did more harm than good,” Republicans were the only subgroup to both publicly and privately agree. The only other group that agreed, publicly and privately, that closing schools and businesses was an overreaction were people making more than $150,000 a year. Among Democrats ages 55-64, almost half of them (48%) agreed it was an overreaction, with only a small decrease (45%) when asked privately.
- While 44% of Americans say publicly that schools waited too long to open for in-person instruction, in private ony 36% of Americans say they did.
- 43% of people say public schools are focusing too much on racism but in private that number drops ten points lower. This is true among all subgroups. Populace says “the gap between public and private opinion is largely being driven by White Americans” and “Republicans are the only demographic group where the majority publicly and privately agree that public schools are focused too much on racism in the United States.” Yet even then there’s a gap–in public, 80% of Republicans say it out loud but only 60% believe that in private.
- Only 12% of Americans support banning books on controversial topics in public schools. The percentage is only slightly higher when asked privately.