As the British Social Attitudes survey shows, public opinion favours school choice. More than two-thirds (68%) agreed that parents should have this right.
But the study found that opinions had hardened when it came to making choices easier for poorer families.
Researchers sketched out the scenario of a parent on a low income who couldn't afford the bus fare to send their child to a more desirable school that was further from home. What should happen?
In 2007, 49% said the government should pay the bus fare. In 2010, just 33% supported this intervention.
More than six in ten said the child should go to his or her local school.
So, when the Graun says the public isn't prepared to pay for choice, it is really saying, or at least two thirds of it is saying, it isn't prepared to pay somebody else's kid's bus fare. The proggers at the BSA Survey try to twist this as follows:
The study says: "One explanation for this change might be that, while people think facilitating choice in this way is desirable during times of economic prosperity, they see it as a luxury and do not think it should be a priority during times of economic downturn, where cuts to public services are being made elsewhere."
You can almost hear the metal-on-metal, as the study-wonks try to shift gears from the clearly-expressed individual point of view to the collectivist group-think in which they operate. Suddenly a straightforward question - do you want choice? - becomes something else - do you think facilitating choice is desirable?