Most Republicans say higher education is hurting America

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The percentage of Republicans and right-leaning independents who believe American colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country has grown dramatically, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Just two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans viewed college as a force for good in America. Since 2015, however, positive views of higher education among Republicans have dropped 18 percent, to 36 percent.

And that distrust, according to the Pew study, is shared by most ideological and demographic groups within the GOP.

While younger Republicans are more favorable toward college than older Republicans, the share of Republicans under 50 who view higher education positively has fallen 21 points since 2015. Only 28 percent of Republicans over 50 say college is good for the country, a drop of 15 points from two years ago.

Meanwhile, Democrats’ views on higher education are significantly more favorable and have remained unchanged: 72 percent say it has a positive effect on the country, about the same as in 2015.

The results of the Pew study are a window into President Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. The results of that campaign revealed a wide gap between voters with and without college degrees, according to a Pew analysis of exit-poll data.

Voters without a college degree backed Trump, 52 percent to 44 percent, while Hillary Clinton enjoyed a nine-point margin among those with a degree. That’s the widest gap in voter preferences among college graduates and non-college graduates since 1980, according to Pew.

The most recent study is based on telephone interviews of 2,504 people, 18 or older, conducted between June 8 and June 18. It had a margin of error of 2.3 percent.

The poll also assessed how Americans view the effect of the media, churches, banks and labor unions on the country. Those findings, according to the researchers, were equally partisan, but generally in line with previous studies. For example, Republicans have much more negative views of the press than Democrats, while Democrats have greater faith in labor unions.

When it comes to higher education, even Republicans with degrees increasingly see it as a negative force. Since 2015, favorable views of colleges and universities have fallen 11 points among college-educated Republicans, to 33 percent, and 20 points to 37 percent among those without a degree.

There were also double-digit declines in the share of conservative Republicans who say colleges have a positive effect on the country, from 48 percent to just 29 percent, and moderate and liberal Republicans, from 62 percent to 50 percent.

For more: “Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions”