50 Years of American Voices


George H. Gallup

The 16th annual Gallup Poll
of the Public’s Attitudes
Toward the Public Schools

“Americans are more favorably disposed toward the public schools today than at any time in the last decade. In this year's survey, more Americans (42%) grade their local schools A or B for their performance than at any time since 1976 — with an 11-point increase just since last year. Virtually the same dramatic increase occurs among the parents of public school children — with a 10% rise since last year in the percentage giving the local schools an A or B rating.

“The percentage of Americans who say that they would be willing to pay more taxes for education has risen from 30% to 41%. Americans continue to feel that public education contributes more to national strength than either industrial might or military power. More than eight in 10 say that developing the best educational system in the world will be "very important" in determining America's future strength, compared to 70% who favor developing the best industrial production system and only 45% who favor developing the strongest military force.”

What was happening in American education?

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Credit: Thinkstock

1984: In his State of the Union speech, President Ronald Reagan urges Congress to pass legislation that would amend the U.S. Constitution to allow spoken prayer in public schools. The effort failed two months later when the Senate defeated the proposal.

March 1984: The Tennessee General Assembly passes the Comprehensive Education Reform Act (CERA), which includes a Career Ladder Program that allows for differential pay as educators move up the rungs of the ladder.

What was happening elsewhere in the United States?

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Credit: Thinkstock

1984: Crack cocaine is acknowledged as an epidemic in major cities across the U.S.

April 23, 1984: Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler announces that researchers have identified the virus that causes AIDS and that a blood test has been developed to diagnose AIDS.

Nov. 6, 1984: Ronald Reagan is elected to his second term as president of the United States.

Share “1984”:


We welcome your conversation about the poll results and the other information we’ve assembled here. What did we forget? What do you remember about this year? How do you think the events of this year influenced the responses to our questions?