A recent survey finds that Republicans’ attitudes about the effect of colleges and universities have changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time.As recently as two years ago, most Republicans and Republican leaners held a positive view of the role of colleges and universities. In September 2015, 54% of Republicans said colleges and universities had a positive impact on the way things were going in the country; 37% rated their impact negatively.By 2016, Republicans’ ratings of colleges and universities were mixed (43% positive, 45% negative). Today, for the first time on a question asked since 2010, a majority (58%) of Republicans say colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, while 36% say they have a positive effect.Among Republicans, there is an ideological gap in views of the impact of colleges and universities and other institutions: Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65%) say colleges are having a negative impact, compared with just 43% of moderate and liberal Republicans.
The ideological differences are less striking among Democrats. Wide majorities of both liberal Democrats (79%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (67%) say colleges have a positive impact.However, Democrats are more ideologically divided than are Republicans over the effect of churches and religious organizations. Liberal Democrats are about as likely to say the impact of churches and religious organizations is negative (44%) as they are to say it is positive (40%). By two-to-one (58% to 29%), more conservative and moderate Democrats say churches have a positive than negative effect on the country.Majorities of both conservative Republicans and Republican leaners (75%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (68%) say churches and religious organizations have a positive impact.There also are pronounced ideological differences in views of the national media. On balance, more liberal Democrats say the national news media has a positive (51%) than negative (39%) impact on the country. Opinion among conservative and moderate Democrats is the reverse (39% positive, 51% negative). Among Republicans, negative views of the news media are shared by large majorities of both conservative Republicans (87%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (80%).Partisan gap over news media’s impact on country grows.
Currently, Democrats are divided in their views of the effects of the national news media. Nearly half of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the news media has a negative impact on the country (46%) while about as many (44%) view its impact positively.This marks a major shift from just a year ago, when 33% of Democrats said the national news media had a positive effect and 59% said it had a negative effect.Republicans’ views of the news media’s impact are virtually unchanged from last year, but have grown more negative since 2010.
Currently, 85% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the news media has a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, up from 76% two years ago and 68% in 2010. Over the past two years, the share of Republicans and Republican leaners who view the impact of colleges and universities positively has declined 18 percentage points (from 54% to 36%), and this shift in opinion has occurred across most demographic and ideological groups within the GOP. Younger Republicans continue to express more positive views of colleges than do older Republicans. But the share of Republicans under 50 who view colleges positively has fallen 21 points since 2015 (from 65% to 44%), while declining 15 points among those 50 and older (43% to 28%).Since 2015, positive views of colleges and universities have fallen 11 points among Republicans with a college degree or more education (from 44% to 33%) and 20 points among those who do not have a college degree (57% to 37%). There also have been double-digit declines in the share of conservative Republicans (from 48% to 29%) and moderate and liberal Republicans (from 62% to 50%) who say colleges have a positive effect on the country.A closer look at Republican and Democratic views on the impact of colleges and universities reveals different demographic patterns within the two party coalitions.