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New poll: Voters want the next governor to invest big in early childhood education

California State Capitol Building in Sacramento. Jeff's Canon/Flickr Creative Commons

Nearly nine in 10 voters want California’s next governor to support greater investments in early childhood care and education, according to a new statewide poll out Thursday.

The poll, released by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, surveyed 800 residents around the state to gauge where early childhood stands among all the other issues in the California. It ranked high. While the cost of health care was the top priority for public investment, the majority of voters ranked early childhood issues above infrastructure and homelessness.

"There’s a connection that voters are making between rising crime, who is benefitting in the economy and what can be done to solve that and early childhood education is increasingly becoming part of that solution," said pollster Mike Madrid, of the firm Grassroots Lab.

"It tells us that voters have an appetite for something to address these problems that's not in the normal way they've approached them in the past."

Three quarters of voters (73.1 percent) would support a gubernatorial candidate who wants to create a publicly funded child care and preschool system for all kids. 

A bipartisan team of pollsters surveyed a sample reflective of the voting population and Madrid, a Republican pollster, said he was surprised to see such high levels of support across party lines.

"Republicans, more now that I’ve ever seen, are more receptive and open to the idea of using both existing or potentially new revenues for investments in early childhood education," said Madrid.

Voters were asked about their willingness to actually fund early childhood education programs. Three-quarters of voters (75.4 percent) support dedicating a portion of taxes from marijuana sales to fund the programs, and 70.6 precent believe the money should come from existing state funds.

The survey is part of a new campaign launched by the foundation last week called Choose Children 2018, which aims to raise awareness across the state about the importance of the first years of life and garner support among gubernatorial candidates.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been reluctant to support initiatives for young kids, and oversaw big cuts – even after the recession. The sprawling, and often splintered, early childhood field is banding together to appeal to candidates. Four in the running for governor, will appear on a panel at statewide convening on early childhood in Sacramento Oct. 2.