Earlier this summer, data from the Pew Research Center revealed that 58% of Republicans surveyed believe universities negatively impact the way things are going in the U.S. But 72% of Democrats believed that universities have a positive impact on the country. So, clearly, there’s a partisan divide on the college question.
The lingering question is: why?
A new study from Gallup has the answer. Their results support the Pew results, finding that only 33% of Republicans are confident in U.S. colleges compared to 56% of Democrats.
For their study, Gallup asked a random sample of 1,017 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia how confident they were in U.S. colleges and universities and why they held the positions they did. And 67% of Republicans and 43% of Democrats had low confidence in colleges.
The report found that Republicans’ low confidence in colleges was often due to politics, agenda and courses taught.
“Republicans with low levels of confidence in colleges are most likely to cite their belief that colleges and universities are too liberal and political, that colleges don’t allow students to think for themselves and are pushing their own agenda, or that students are not taught the right material or are poorly educated,” the study states. “In short, Republicans with low confidence tend to see the world of higher education through distinctly political eyes.”
Democrats who had low confidence in U.S. colleges were more likely to refer to practical aspects of higher education to explain their position, like college costs being too expensive, colleges being mismanaged, or that college students struggling to find jobs.
While Gallup found a large difference in reasoning between Democrats and Republicans who had low confidence in colleges, very few differences were found in the explanations of Democrats and Republicans who had higher levels of confidence in colleges.
The reasons most often given for high levels of confidence were:
Gallup believes that recent student protests, free speech debates and controversial speakers visiting college campuses could be fueling the large partisan divides in views of higher education.
Gallup raises several questions about the future of higher education based on their results:
Will differing partisan views on higher education start to impact students and U.S. colleges and universities?