According to public opinion surveys, the economy was the top priority for voters in North Carolina and around the country for several years. That’s no surprise considering the Great Recession, rising unemployment and plunging consumer confidence. But as the national economy has improved, polling in North Carolina has shown an interesting trend.

In the last year, education has eclipsed the economy as the top priority for North Carolina voters.
Top Issue Priority for NC Voters

The chart above is a compilation of polls [i] from the last few years that asked a variation of this question: “What issue is your top priority?”

Combining polls with different methodologies and different question wording is admittedly crude, but it still tells a compelling tale.

It appears voters’ apprehension about the economy is waning—but perhaps more interestingly, concerns about education are on the rise. Quantitative and qualitative research indicates voters perceive education funding has been cut in recent years with negative consequences in our schools.

Lawmakers must agree, as teacher pay was the number one issue during the 2014 short session.

This indicates that the debate over education—teacher pay, vouchers, Common Core, etc.—will continue into next year. As long as voters care about education, politicians will feel compelled to address it.

[i] Polls used in the chart: 1/21/08,PPP; 12/9/08,PPP; 6/14/09, PPP; 12/13/09, PPP; 6/30/10, PPP; 4/15/11, Elon; 11/4/11, Elon; 7/8/12, Myers Research; 2/2/13, Myers Research; 12/12/13, ALG Research; 8/12/14,ALG Research