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Most Republicans Have Negative View Of Colleges And Universities, New Poll Finds

A new poll released by the Pew Research Center suggests that the majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are opposed to America’s colleges and universities. While opposition to what has often been characterized as a strong presence of “liberal elites” among the faculties of colleges and universities has long been prevalent among the American right, the new poll suggests that this opposition is growing stronger.

According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents stated in a poll conducted in June of this year that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the United States. This is up 13 points from 45 percent in last year’s poll among the same group. Contrast these numbers with Democrat respondents, 72 percent of whom have a positive view of colleges and universities, and it’s clear that there is a wide partisan divide when it comes to views on higher learning in the United States.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results are flipped when it comes to the country’s thoughts on religious institutions. The poll found that 73 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican have a favorable view of religious institutions, while Democrats and those who lean Democrat are split right down the middle, with only 50 percent having a favorable view of churches and other religious organizations.

Both Democrats and Republicans have a rather dim view of the news media. The Pew poll finds that while a mere 10 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the news media, it’s not that popular with Democrats either. Only 44 percent of Democrats hold a favorable view of our national news media.

Labor unions enjoy support from 59 percent of Democrat respondents, while 33 percent of Republicans think unions cause more problems than good.

Most of these results come as little surprise. The clear disdain that Republicans have for America’s institutions of higher learning, however, may raise some concerns for anyone worried about the ability of the voting public to make educated, informed decisions on matters such as climate change that rely heavily on research conducted at universities. According to NASA, 97 percent of published scientists agree that changes in the Earth’s climate are due to human activities. Given the large segment of Republican voters who have a distaste for colleges and universities, special interest groups who oppose regulations intended to curb climate change don’t have to work quite as hard to get them to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus. They can just chalk it off as more propaganda from the liberal elites at the universities.

As little as two years ago, 54 percent of Republican respondents to a similar Pew Research Center poll expressed favorable views of the nation’s colleges and universities, with only 37 percent of respondents having a negative view at that time. What could be causing this tremendous shift?

According to the New Republic, the 2016 Republican Party platform included specific language meant to challenge the societal value of colleges and universities.

The platform called for “new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools: Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector,” stating that higher education “must be challenged to balance its worth against its negative economic impact on students and their families.”

It’s clear that there is a concerted effort underway by Republicans to challenge the role colleges and universities have traditionally played in the intellectual life of the United States. Whether you believe this is a good thing or a bad thing most likely depends on which side of the divide you stand.

[Featured Image by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]