It apparently only took seven years for Republicans to change their minds completely about how they feel toward colleges and universities. And, spoiler alert: their new feelings aren’t great. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 58 percent of Republicans now think “colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country,” compared to the 72 percent of Democrats that, inversely, believe these institutions are positive.
The survey polled 2,504 adults between June 8-18, 2017, on their thoughts about different institutions in the country: churches, banks, unions, the media, and colleges and universities. The same study collected markedly different results in 2015 when only 37 percent of Republicans believed colleges and universities were bad for the country. And that number jumps up to a staggering 65 percent thinking negatively about higher education when you’re only talking about conservative Republicans.
It’s unclear why Republicans might feel this way towards higher education, especially considering that a report by the US Census Bureau in 2015 found that as people acquired more degrees, their average annual earnings increased as well. For example, a high school dropout that works part time or only part of the year makes only $18,900 a year versus a full-time working college graduate making $45,400 a year. In a different report from The College Board in 2013, 51 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are happier with their job compared to 47 percent of workers with just a high school diploma. This is the first time a large majority of Republicans has responded this way since the survey started asking the question in 2010.
Seventy-two percent of “Democrats and Democratic leaners” believe “colleges and universities have a positive effect.” When the survey asked liberal democrats, 79 percent responded with the same positive answer, as did 67 percent of conservative and moderate Democrats. However, higher education isn’t looking too bleak in this country (yet). Fifty-five percent of Americans still believe that colleges and universities are beneficial for the country.