⚫ A new poll finds many parents want a say in what's taught at schools

⚫ Undecided voters may go Republican if parental control is on their minds

⚫ Turnout may be key in determining Election Day winners

The hot-button issue of parental rights in schools may play a significant role in November's legislative races in New Jersey.

A new poll out of Fairleigh Dickinson University suggests that Democrats would lose ground in the New Jersey Legislature if parental control is front and center in enough voters' minds.

In the poll of New Jersey adults conducted over a week in October, 52% of respondents said parents of students should have some influence over what's taught in their kids' schools. Another 24% said parents should actually choose what schools teach.

A winning issue for Republicans?

Republicans have been hammering at Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats for supposedly interfering with parental rights in schools. The issue has reared its head continually over the past several months, in the way of book bans, sexual education rules, and parental notification regarding gender identity.

“It is clear from the FDU poll that parents want a say in their kid’s education," said Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris. "Republicans have said time and time again that children succeed best when parents and teachers are partners."

Parental control issue may sway votes

The FDU poll purposely asked half of the respondents about parental control before asking about how they're voting this Election Day, and reversed the order for the other half, in order to gauge whether the topic would sway people's preferences.

"The results were striking," said Dan Cassino, poll director.

When respondents were primed to think about parental control in schools, support for Republican candidates went up by six points, and support for the Democratic candidate fell nine points.

"The net effect is that Democrats are still up in that generic ballot, but only by one point, essentially making the race a dead heat," Cassino said.

Among voters who weren't asked first about parental control of schools, Democratic candidates topped Republicans by 16 points.

Election turnout is typically low

Adding the issue of parental control to the beginning of the questioning made the biggest impact among independents. When the parental question was asked after voter choice, independents preferred Democrats over Republicans by 20 points. When the order was switched, independents favored Republicans by 16 points.

But, Cassino said, independents don't generally run to the polls during "off-year" elections.

"The bigger turnout you see in this coming election, the more likely it is that Republicans are going to have gains," Cassino said.

All 80 seats in the Assembly and all 40 seats in the Senate are up for grabs in November. In 2019, the last time an election was headlined by legislative races, turnout was 27%.

Democrats are the majority in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature.

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