Aug 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Higher ed's coming clashes

Do you think your race gives you an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to higher education in America?
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Asian, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to say colleges and universities reflect white people's views, while white Americans — especially Republicans — are more likely to say these institutions favor liberal beliefs, according to a new Axios/Ipsos poll on inequity in higher education.

The big picture: Everybody sees the necessity of a college education in today's world. But fewer than one in 10 thinks a four-year degree is affordable, and six in 10 think it should be free for all U.S. citizens.

  • The poll was conducted for an Axios deep dive on higher education that will be released this afternoon as part of our "Hard Truths" series on systemic racism.

What they're saying: "If conservatives think they’re being excluded and minorities feel they’re being excluded, is this the next flashpoint?" said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "Everyone believes in higher education to get ahead. But it’s all about means and access. People of color have always felt they’ve been excluded, haven't had access. And now you have white Americans who’d always had access and now feel that ease of access has been threatened."

By the numbers: Majorities across every racial and ethnic group support making four-year college or university educations free to all U.S. citizens, a view especially held by Americans under 50.

  • That's true for 51% of white Americans, 66% of Asian Americans, 71% of Hispanic Americans and 78% of Black Americans.
  • 48% of Asian Americans, 43% of Black Americans, 39% of Hispanic Americans and 31% of white Americans said colleges are biased toward white values and beliefs.
  • Meanwhile, 50% of white Americans, 45% of Asian Americans, 39% of Hispanic Americans and 30% of Black Americans said colleges have a liberal bias.

The intrigue: Asked how comfortable "a person like you" would be in different types of higher education institutions, white respondents were the least comfortable — a trend that's driven by partisanship, but becomes especially strong for more advanced studies.

  • 79% of all respondents said they'd feel comfortable in a trade school or community college — including 75% of Asian Americans, 78% of white Americans, 80% of Black Americans and 84% of Hispanic Americans.
  • 67% of all respondents said they'd feel comfortable at a four-year college or university — but only 62% of white Americans and 55% of Republicans felt that way, compared with 74% of Black Americans, 76% of Hispanic Americans and 83% of Asian Americans.
  • But color made little difference when respondents were asked if institutions of higher learning equip "people like you" professionally and financially.

Black, Hispanic and Asian-Americans respondents were far more likely than white respondents to support an admissions process that gives favorable consideration to applicants from disadvantaged communities. They were also more likely to support forgiving student debt.

  • White respondents were four times as likely as Black respondents and twice as likely as Hispanic respondents to say affirmative action was discriminatory against white Americans.

Between the lines: Respondents were asked if their own race helped or hurt them when it came to access and opportunity for higher education. White Americans were most likely to say it helped them, though only 29% said so. Just 5% of Black Americans said their race has been an advantage.

  • Just 43% of white respondents — compared with 65% of Asian Americans, 67% of Hispanic Americans and 81% of Black Americans — said higher education must keep making changes to give students of other colors equal opportunities.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Aug. 11-18 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,992 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The survey included interviews with 761 white respondents, 510 Black respondents, 477 Hispanic respondents and 205 Asian American/Pacific Islander respondents.
  • The study was conducted in both English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, race/ethnicity by gender, race/ethnicity by age, race/ethnicity by education and race/ethnicity by region.
  • The margin of sampling error is ±2.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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