Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Research Reports on Higher Education

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research has released two research reports on higher education. The first report from a survey conducted by the Crossley Center describes the University of Denver’s and University of Colorado’s level of favorability in the Denver metro area. The second report, an analysis of a national poll from Pew Research, discusses a partisan challenge to higher education today. Both reports highlight how higher education is becoming entangled in the intense and polarizing partisanship that has infected American politics.

     DU and CU are highly favored in Denver metro area

     Higher education facing partisan challenge

Although Crossley Center survey both DU and CU had a high level of favorability in the Denver metropolitan area, Republicans rated the universities less favorably than Democrats. There was an 8 percent difference among Democrats and Republicans in rating DU favorably, and 9 percent difference between the parties on rating CU.

Nationally, the Pew Research poll shows a 6 point drop in favorability ratings of higher education since 2010 and a 10 point increase in negative rating, mostly due to declines in favorability among Republicans. Most ominously, Republican favorability dropped 18 points in the last two years and is now in negative territory (36% favorable to 58% unfavorable).

Additional studies from Pew Research and Gallup reinforce the growing threat to higher education from the polarized public perception. Pew shows that Republicans rate professors lower in favorability than teachers and those in other professions. When comparing professions with a “feeling thermometer,” Pew results showed that teachers and police officers have warmer ratings than professors, and Republicans are especially colder in their rating of professors than Democrats (see table below). Along with a 25-point difference between Democrats and Republicans in the feeling thermometer ratings, Republicans’ rating of professors was 12 points below the overall national average.

Gallup probed why people have critical views of colleges and universities and the differences are significant between political party affiliations (see table below). Republicans are more likely to cite political concerns and Democrats more economic concerns.

As described in the Crossley Center higher education report:

News organizations have reported numerous stories with a negative slant toward higher education in recent years. The high cost of college, student debt loads and low graduation rates have been well covered. Recently, and of more interest to Republicans, have been stories frequently reported in conservative news sites of campus disruptions, takeovers of administrator’s offices, student protests of conservative speakers and an assertion of weak faculty and administrative responses.  (Higher Education Facing Partisan Challenge, Aug. 2017)

The local and national reports of higher education’s favorability ratings highlight the challenges facing higher education institutions from the partisan polarization that pervades America today. The reputation of higher education is an essential asset of the institutions. This data suggests protecting it will require specific strategies.

Gallup: Why are Republicans down on higher ed?
Pew Research: Partisans differ widely in views of police officers, college professors

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