NEA Survey: Members “Not Energized for the Election”
posted at 6:23 pm on August 6, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
If it seemed like the National Education Association’s advocacy for the re-election of President Obama during last month’s Representative Assembly was a bit forced and anxious, it’s probably because the union’s internal polling shows a genuine lack of enthusiasm for four more years of the current federal education and labor policy.
At the end of each calendar year, NEA surveys its members and its activists, asking a variety of questions to get their pulse on the upcoming year in politics. The union holds the results of these surveys very close to the vest, but when you can get hold of one, it is always informative. At the end of 2011, NEA commissioned GBA Strategies, a DC-based communications and opinion research firm, to conduct a survey of 750 rank-and-file members and an additional 750 activists, the latter defined as elected union reps, PAC contributors, and other members who have been involved in organized union political activities.
The numbers reinforce what past surveys demonstrated. NEA and its activists are not at odds with the leanings and desires of the rank-and-file, but their opinions are much more zealous and less nuanced than those of the average member.
Sixty percent of the rank-and-file surveyed gave Obama a favorable rating, while 26 percent gave him an unfavorable rating. For presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the numbers were 26 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable.
Among NEA activists each of those leanings intensified significantly. Seventy-three percent rated Obama favorably, while only 17 percent rated him unfavorably. Romney’s ratings among activists were 18 percent favorable and 57 percent unfavorable.
Obama’s job performance stats showed a similar gap overall, but neither group was overjoyed. Only 19 percent of the rank-and-file strongly approved of how the President was doing his job while 20 percent strongly disapproved. The activists were somewhat kinder. Thirty percent of them strongly approved while only 12 percent strongly disapproved.
Asked to choose between Obama and Romney, it was no contest. The rank-and-file selected the President 56% (36% “strong”) to 26% for Romney, with the rest undecided. The activists went for Obama 70% (49% “strong”) to 16% for Romney, with the rest undecided.
The layman might find these numbers encouraging for NEA, but the union is worried that even its activists aren’t planning on being very active. Only 10 percent of the rank-and-file and 13 percent of the activists were “very likely” to join Educators for Obama, the NEA PAC volunteer group. Twenty-four percent in each group were “not likely at all” to do so. And even among those likely to join, large percentages wouldn’t talk to the media, recruit others, or volunteer for two hours a month.
GBA Strategies came to the simple conclusion that while a significant majority of NEA members supported the re-election of the President, “they are not energized for the election.” The firm recommended more work be done to mobilize the union membership “even if it means concentrating on educating them about how bad the alternative is.”
NEA obviously has taken that recommendation to heart in 2012. But a “Vote for Obama So Things Don’t Get Worse” message isn’t a formula for success with education voters (or with those who vote on the economy, for that matter). NEA won’t be able to energize Obama voters. Only Obama can. He hasn’t shown any signs of reversing course in education policy or personnel, so NEA is playing the only cards it holds.