09/20/2012 01:38 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2012

Education Politics: Survey Finds More Political Independents Align With Republican Education Views

Political independents tend to side more with Republicans than Democrats when it comes to educational issues, a nationally representative survey by the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University has found.

The study found that 56 percent of Independents believe teachers unions have “done more harm than good,” 54 percent supported school vouchers and only 34 percent were in favor of raising teacher salaries after being told what the average salary levels were in their state.

“With Barack Obama and Mitt Romney running neck-in-neck, the nation’s eyes are trained on independent voters, who will likely decide the presidential election,” PEPG director Paul E. Peterson said in a statement Thursday. “Romney’s education plan may not be unattractive to this group.”

One-third of independents assigned Obama's handling of education issues an “excellent” or “good” rating, while the remaining 60 percent or so report he has done a “fair” or “poor” job.

The survey also examined trends between Republicans and Democrats, and found the two parties are most divided about education when it comes to teachers unions: 71 percent of self-identified Republicans think unions have a negative impact on schools, compared to only 29 percent of Democrats.

According to the survey, 54 percent of the public believes decisions regarding teacher tenure and teacher salaries should take into account student performance on standardized tests. However, 44 percent of teachers prefer being evaluated by principals, as opposed to assigning weight to student test scores.

Regarding the public’s trust in teachers, 58 percent of respondents indicated they have “little” trust or only “some” trust in educators, with 42 percent reporting to have “complete” or “a lot of” trust in teachers. By comparison, 72 percent of parents responded favorably when asked to answer with a simple “yes” or “no” to convey whether they have trust in teachers.

When told how much their local district spends on education, support for increasing spending dropped from 61 percent to 41 percent among respondents. Support for increasing taxes to fund schools also fell from 35 percent to 24 percent.

In total, respondents were split 50-50 when asked about their opinion on school vouchers.

In addition, 62 percent lauded the idea behind charter schools, though the survey indicated public knowledge about this subject is lacking.

According to a recent Gallup survey, 61 percent of parents believe charter schools provide an “excellent” or “good” education. Overall, that survey found more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with American public education, but are more inclined to rate their own children’s schools highly.