Harris Poll Finds Perceived Respect for Teachers Has Declined

High school teachers identified as most influential

Jan 23, 2014, 10:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, Jan. 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With winter break over and the holidays retreating into memory, students, parents and teachers dive into the second half of the school year. With books back on the brain, it's an appropriate time to think about the relationships teachers share with students, parents and administrators. According to a new Harris Poll, perceived levels of respect between these parties is down – dramatically so in many cases – in comparison to what Americans recall from their own K-12 experiences. While nearly four in five Americans (79%) believe students respected teachers when they were in school, that number has plummeted 48 points, with only 31% believing students respect teachers today.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

When thinking about school dynamics when they were K-12 students themselves, vast majorities of Americans recall respect existing between academic "stakeholders." Respect between teachers and parents during this time is perceived as having been especially strong, with 91% of Americans each believing that teachers respected parents, and that parents respected teachers.

So what has changed? Americans' outlook on these relationships today is far less rosy. U.S. adults are far less likely to believe these disparate groups respect one another, with perceptions of parental and student respect for teachers showing the steepest declines when compared to how Americans perceive these relationships from when they were in school themselves:

  • Only half of Americans believe parents respect teachers today (49%, down 42 points).
  • Only three in ten believe today's K-12 students respect teachers (31%, making for a drop of 48 points).
  • Just under two-thirds of Americans believe that teachers respect parents today (64%, down 27 percentage points when compared to the percentage who believe teachers respected parents during their own K-12 schooling).
  • Roughly six in ten each believe that teachers today respect students (61%, down 25 points) and that the administration respects teachers (58%, down 30 points).

"Respect among principals, teachers, students and parents is an important aspect of a successful school ecosystem," said Jen Loukes, vice president of the Harris Poll School Pulse, Harris Interactive's longstanding School Satisfaction study. "Adults and children alike desire the respect of their colleagues and peers in order to perform at their best. While some of the findings around this perceived decline in respect are alarming, this is a trend the Harris Poll School Pulse will follow more closely in the coming year."

Also troubling is the disparity between teachers perceived respect for students and parents, in comparison to the relative lack of respect these groups are seen as showing in return. Americans are considerably more likely to say teachers respect parents (64%) than that parents respect teachers (49%). Turning to the student-teacher dynamic, Americans are twice as likely to say that teachers respect students (61%) than they are to say that students respect teachers (31%).

And the most influential teacher is…
Every awards season includes at least one celebrity thanking the teacher that influenced them most in their life. Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes and Adam Sandler (who can forget him thanking his kindergarten teacher on stage at the People's Choice Awards?) have all publicly recognized teachers that influenced them and pushed them to be successful.

The survey also asked Americans to think about teachers they may have had in the past, and to indicate during which school years they had the most influential teacher or teachers.

High school was the top response (47%), mentioned at a roughly 2-to-1 ratio over elementary school (23%). 16% of Americans pointed to middle school or junior high school (16%) and 14% said they experienced their most influential teacher or teachers in college.

  • Roughly three in ten college graduates and post grads (31% and 29%, respectively) cited college.

When asked what qualities were factors in driving teachers to the top of this list for them, challenge, inspiration and style were more likely to influence the selection than actual grasp of their subject matter. "Challenged me to do my best" (36%), "Inspired me to want to learn" (34%) and "Teaching style" (32%) were the top selections, followed by "Treated me with respect" (28%) and "Seemed to enjoy teaching" (27%).

Nearly one-fourth each pointed to the teacher or teachers being "Knowledgeable about their subject matter" (23%) and "Instilling self-confidence in me" (23%), while two in ten selected "Sense of humor" (20%).

Some factors varied along generational lines:

  • "Teaching style" appears to have been less of a factor among Echo Boomers (25%) than among their older counterparts (38% Gen Xers, 32% Baby Boomers, 39% Matures).
  • Turning to the other end of the age spectrum, Matures are more likely than any of their younger counterparts to value "Knowledgeable about subject manner" in this manner (20% Echo Boomers, 21% Gen Xers, 23% Baby Boomers, 31% Matures).

For information regarding Harris Interactive's Harris Poll School Pulse satisfaction management tool, please contact info@harrisinteractive.com.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between November 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,250 adults (aged 18 and over), 470 of whom have children in grades K-12. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Q855, 860, 865, 870

The Harris Poll® #8, January 23, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll & Michelle Gosney, Harris Poll Insights

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll®, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client's research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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SOURCE Harris Interactive