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Most Republicans Think College Is Ruining America

A new Pew Research Center survey found 58 percent of right-leaning Americans think colleges and universities are harming the country—up 13 percent from last year.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
July 10, 2017, 9:33pm
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the face of everything that divides Americans today, there are still a few things that pretty much everyone can agree on. Dogs are good. Space is cool. Education is import—oh, wait, sorry. According to a survey released Monday, that last point is as partisan as gun control: A majority of Republicans now believe college is bad for the country, and a majority of Democrats think it's great.

The poll, conducted by Pew Research Center, found that 58 percent of Republicans feel colleges and universities "have a negative effect on the country," with just 36 percent supporting higher education. The proportion of Republican-leaning voters who are anti-college has shot up in recent years, spiking by 21 percentage points from 2015 to 2017. That figure jumped 13 percentage points over the past year alone.


Opinions on higher education have remained pretty consistent among Democrats, with 72 percent of those surveyed this year saying college positively impacts the country. At its lowest level of support, back in 2010, that figure for Democrats was at 65 percent.

Republican disdain for colleges and universities climbs as you move further right on the spectrum: Whereas 43 percent of moderates believe higher education is harming the country, a whopping 65 percent of conservatives are against it. Interestingly, Republicans who never attended or finished college think it's better for the country than those who actually went: 37 percent of Republicans with high school educations or some college education support higher education, compared with 32 percent of college graduates, and 35 percent of folks who finished a postgrad program.

Pew also collected data on the college-aged Republicans attending the institutions their peers believe are destroying the country. Roughly half of right-leaning 18 to 29 year olds think college has a positive effect on America. Compare that with the mere 27 percent of those aged 65 and older who feel the same way.

Pew also surveyed its 2,504 respondents about their views on church, unions, banks, and the news media. Unsurprisingly, they found that each side of the aisle offered "starkly different assessments" of those institutions' impact on the nation. Like education, both parties are pretty split on their support for the news media right now, with eight out of ten Republicans saying the news media is harming the country, and Democrats evenly divided on the question. One wonders why that might be.

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