The Pew report states that “there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction – even suspicion – among the public about the role colleges play in society, the way admissions decisions are made and the extent to which free speech is constrained on college campuses. And these views are increasingly linked to partisanship.”
A 2018 Gallup found similar results, as 48 percent of the adults surveyed expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education. This was down from 57 percent in a similar Gallup poll in 2015. The drop was also fueled by a change in the attitude of Republicans “whose confidence level has fallen by 17 percentage points, but Democrats and independents are also less confident now than they were three years ago.”
A 2018 Pew survey took a look at the reasons behind the differing views on higher education. The survey found that among Republicans who believe higher education is going in the wrong direction , 79 percent of those cited professors bringing their political or social views in to the classroom as a reason why (compared to 17 percent of Democrats), along with too much concern about protecting students from views they may find offensive (75 percent of Republicans cited this compared to 31 percent of Democrats).
Older Republicans are even more likely to have a negative view of higher education based on ideological factors. For example, 96 percent of Republicans 65 or older who have a negative perception of higher education said professors bringing their views into the classroom was a major reason for their negative outlook, according to Pew.
Republicans (77 percent) and Democrats (92 percent) do agree that tuition costs are too high.
The Pew study finds that higher education institutions face a host of challenges in the years to come, including tuition costs, preparing graduates for a changing and more technology-based work environment and the country’s changing demographics. “Ideological battles waged over the climate and culture on college campuses may make addressing these broader issues more difficult” the study concludes.