Jul 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Americans' trust in college keeps dropping

Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

All major demographic groups, led by Republicans, are less confident in higher education than they were just a few years ago, according to a Gallup poll out Tuesday.

Driving the news: Just 36% of Americans said they have confidence in higher education. Trust in major U.S. institutions overall has dropped.

  • Confidence fell from 48% in 2018 and 57% in 2015.

Details: All major subgroups, polled between June 1-22, expressed less confidence in higher education, especially Republicans.

  • In 2015, more than half of all Democrats and Republicans had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the institution, compared with 48% of independents.
  • By 2018, less than half of Republicans and independents felt confident about the institution, compared with 62% of Democrats.
  • This year, Republican confidence dropped to 19%, independent dropped to 32% and Democrat dropped to 59%.

Democrats are now "the only key subgroup with majority-level confidence in higher education," Megan Brenan, a research consultant for Gallup, wrote.

  • Democrats expressed concerns about the cost of higher education, according to previous Gallup polling.
  • Republicans were worried about politics in education.
  • Both women's and men's confidence in higher education dropped. All age groups saw a decrease as well.

Half of people with postgraduate degrees expressed confidence in higher ed this year.

  • 47% of respondents with college degrees and 29% with no college degree said they had confidence in the institution.
  • People with no college degree saw the steepest drop among this group, down 25 percentage points since 2015.

The big picture: Higher education ranked fourth in confidence among 17 institutions, according to Gallup.

  • In the top three spots were small business, the military and the police.
  • Overall, Americans have expressed historically low faith in U.S. institutions, according to Gallup.

Go deeper: College enrollment falls for third straight year

Methodology: The Gallup was conducted June 1-22 of 1,013 adults and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

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