A new poll says that 81 percent of Pennsylvania voters support providing early-childhood education to children under age 5, and that 71 percent believe those programs should be state-funded.

The poll results were released yesterday by the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. The three organizations commissioned the poll.

"It's very rare to find an issue that draws supports from conservatives and liberals alike," said Ben Tulchin, president of Tulchin Research, the California-based company that conducted the poll between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20.

"That indicates voters want the state to continue to make investments in children through early- childhood education and not go backward," he said.

The poll showed that 92 percent of liberals, 88 percent of moderates and 70 percent of conservatives support early-childhood education. It also showed support across all areas of the state.

"Pennsylvania stands to save money by saving quality early-childhood-education programs, rather than cutting them," said Jodi Askins, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children.

The poll showed that voters believed that the long-term economic benefits of reducing the high-school-dropout rate and reducing crime and incarceration were worth spending on early-childhood education, Tulchin said in a telephone conference call yesterday.

Although the statewide support for early-childhood programs was 81 percent, support varied by region.

In Philadelphia, support was 96 percent; in the Philadelphia suburbs it was 80 percent.

In Pittsburgh, support was 75 percent; in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, it was 88 percent; in Johnstown-Altoona, it was 81 percent and in the Harrisburg, Lancaster and York areas, it was 69 percent.