College & Workforce Readiness

Most Republicans Have Negative View of Higher Education, Poll Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — July 11, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Republicans are becoming increasingly critical of the effect higher education is having on American life, with 58 percent saying colleges and universities exert a negative impact on the country, according to a study released Tuesday.

The findings by the Pew Research Center show a sharp divide in attitude toward higher education between Republicans and Democrats. While 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said colleges and universities have a negative impact on “the way things are going in the country,” 72 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said higher education exerts a positive impact on the country.

The national telephone survey of 2,504 adults, conducted last month by the Pew Research Center, also explored partisan divides on other societal institutions, including religious organizations, financial institutions and labor unions. The national news media and higher education were the two that came in for the harshest assessment.

The report doesn’t offer insight into why Republicans’ views of higher education have grown more negative. But doubts about the value of college have grown in the wake of the Great Recession, as many college graduates struggled to find work, and the cost of college—and student debt levels—soared. Bachelor’s degrees still command higher wages than most other postsecondary credentials, but policymakers are increasingly hailing career-focused education as a way to equip young people with skills that can lead to industry credentials and good jobs.

The findings mark a sharp decline in Republicans’ view of higher education. Only two years ago, Pew found that 54 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents had a positive view of colleges’ and universities’ impact on American life. Only 37 percent deemed them a negative influence.

Democrats’ views of higher education have not shown a similar change in the past two years.

Conservative Republicans are a particular force behind the negative views of colleges and universities. Sixty-five percent of conservative Republicans told Pew that higher education has a negative impact, while only 43 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans held that view.

Democrats show less of a schism on the issue. Seventy-nine percent of liberal Democrats and 67 percent of conservative and moderate Democrats view higher education’s impact on American life as positive.


Get High School & Beyond posts delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re published. Sign up here. Also, for news and analysis of issues that shape adolescents’ preparation for work and higher education.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion There’s Insurance for Homes or Cars—Why Not College Degrees?
Rick Hess talks with Wade Eyerly, the CEO of Degree Insurance, about the company's plan to make investing in a college degree less risky.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Fewer Students in Class of 2020 Went Straight to College
First-year college enrollment dropped steeply last year, a study finds, and the declines were sharpest among poorer students.
6 min read
Image shows University Application Acceptance Notification Letter with ACCEPTED Stamp
YinYang/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor Are Students Ready for Post-Pandemic Reality?
Schools must make improving students' essential skills a priority for college and career success, says the CEO and president of CAE.
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness This Is Not a Good Time to Fall Off the College Track. Students Are Doing It Anyway
Fewer students in the Class of 2021 are applying for college financial aid, continuing a drop that started last year.
6 min read
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the decline.
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the decline.
Jon Elswick/AP