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Tags: gallup | survey | confidence | higher | education

Gallup: Confidence in Higher Education Falls to 36%

By    |   Tuesday, 11 July 2023 11:52 AM EDT

According to a Gallup survey of institutions, Americans' confidence in higher education has fallen to 36%, sharply lower than in two prior readings in 2015 (57%) and 2018 (48%).

In the survey, only 17% of U.S. adults have "a great deal" of confidence in higher education, and 19% have "quite a lot" of confidence in higher education, while 40% have "some" confidence, and 22% have "very little" confidence in the institution.

Although diminished, higher education ranks fourth in confidence among the 17 institutions Gallup measured, with small business, the military, and the police in the top three spots of institutions assessed. 

In 2015, majorities of Americans in all key subgroups expressed confidence in higher education, with one exception — independents (48%). By 2018, though, confidence had fallen across all groups, with the largest drop, 17 percentage points, among Republicans.

In the latest measure, confidence once again fell across the board, but Republicans' sank the most — 20 points to 19%, the lowest of any group. Confidence among adults without a college degree and those aged 55 and older dropped nearly as much as Republicans' since 2018.

Even though all subgroups show declining confidence in higher education, significant gaps persist among political, educational, gender, and age subgroups. Notably, the only key subgroup with majority-level confidence in higher education is Democrats (59%).

While Gallup did not probe for reasons behind the recent drop in confidence, the rising costs of postsecondary education likely play a significant role.

There is a growing divide between Republicans' and Democrats' confidence in higher education. Previous Gallup polling found that Democrats expressed concern about the costs of higher education, while Republicans registered concern about politics in higher education.

The results are from a June 1-22 Gallup survey of a minimum of 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Gallup uses a dual-frame design, which includes both landline and cellphone numbers. 

Jon Fansmith, senior vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education, said he's "not happy" that public confidence has gone down.

"You don’t like to see public confidence in your organizations waning, especially when you serve a public good like higher ed," Fansmith said.

He said the country's polarized political climate likely played a role in survey respondents' perceptions, noted insidehighered.com.

"Higher education has always been seen as something good and of value to people; you start to see this partisan divide … and it makes it harder for people to understand the true benefits of higher ed," Fansmith said.

Zach Hrynowski, an education researcher at Gallup, said the poll results were eye-popping and left little doubt about the current state of the public image of higher ed and the work needed to renew public confidence, according to insidehighered.com.

"I don't think, necessarily, I would say they should be concerned, but I think they should be paying attention," he said of higher education officials.

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According to a Gallup survey of institutions, Americans' confidence in higher education has fallen to 36%, sharply lower than in two prior readings in 2015 (57%) and 2018 (48%).
gallup, survey, confidence, higher, education
Tuesday, 11 July 2023 11:52 AM
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