New survey: Americans disagree that college is good for our common sense

Party affiliation was a far bigger factor than the level of education in how voters answered the questions in the survey, FiveThirtyEight reported.

Here’s a question many higher ed leaders are probably not asking themselves: Does college make students “lose their common sense?” It may sound like a preposterous inquiry but, in fact, a majority of Republican voters surveyed agree that higher education is a detriment to a young person’s ability to act and think rationally.

That gap in thinking is only one of the many ways that higher education—like so many other issues—is now dividing voters in America, according to the Invisible Divides survey series from FiveThirtyEight, the website that analyzes opinion polls and uses analytics to forecast elections. For instance:

  • Nearly 60% of Republican voters strongly or somewhat agree that “college makes you lose your common sense” compared to about 15% of Democrats who feel that way.

While the idea that the U.S. higher education system is the envy of the world may be a given on campus, not all voters agree that college is the best way to get ahead or that propaganda isn’t a problem in the classroom. Only 37% of the Republicans surveyed said they believe that a college education is the best way to get ahead in the U.S.

Large majorities of Republicans also agree that colleges and high schools teach liberal propaganda. Not surprisingly, fewer than one in five Democrats agree with either of those ideas. Party affiliation was a far bigger factor than level of education in how voters answered the survey, FiveThirtyEight reported.

Voters’ views on higher ed, not surprisingly, are directly linked to whether they support student loan forgiveness. But their views are also tied to their beliefs on the other issues—respondents who said college is detrimental to common sense were less likely to worry about climate change or racism, FiveThirtyEight found.

“This hints that the division is about more than simply getting a college education or having a higher income,” the website said. “‘College’ and, relatedly, ‘elitism’ are concepts that seem to be linked to otherwise unrelated ideas—like support for LGBTQ+ rights or racial justice.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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