The belief that drives support for public education

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Remember the last time you were asked to vote on a tax increase to bolster the budget of your local schools? What influenced your decision?

Whether you, or members of your family, have school-age children was a likely consideration. As was the degree to which you feel overburdened by taxes.

But new research suggests another fundamental factor played a big role: Whether you believe all children, or just a few, have what it takes to excel.

“People’s lay theories about intellectual potential drive their positions on education,” Singapore-based researcher Krishna Savani, Aneeta Rattan of the London Business School, and Carol Dweck of Stanford University write in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

They report that, in three studies, “the more people believed that nearly everyone has high potential, the more they viewed education as a fundamental human right.” What’s more, this held true after factoring in their political ideology.

The first study featured 201 United States residents recruited online. They were asked to indicate where they stood on a scale of one (“almost all people have the potential to become highly intelligent”) to 20 (“only some people have the potential to become highly intelligent”). They were also asked “In general, how much do you think people can improve their intelligence over time?”