- Just 36% of surveyed Americans reported they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education, a sharp drop from five years ago, according to a new Gallup poll.
- This share fell from 48% in 2018 and 57% in 2015, the last two times Gallup conducted the same poll. Meanwhile, 40% of respondents polled in 2023 said they had “some” confidence in higher education, while 22% said they had “very little.”
- Only 19% of Republicans reported high confidence in higher education — the least of any political subgroup. They were followed by independents, at 32%, and Democrats, at 59%.
Faith in higher education declined across every major subgroup, according to Gallup. But the poll also showed widening gaps in beliefs about college across political parties, age groups and education levels.
For instance, in 2015, the majority of Republicans and Democrats alike reported high confidence in higher education, 56% versus 68%, respectively. Nearly half of independents, 48%, said the same.
But by 2023, only Democrats continued to have a majority report high faith in higher ed.
Researchers saw similar patterns across subgroups with different education levels.
In 2015, similar levels of people with no college degree and those who earned an undergraduate degree reported having faith in higher education, 54% versus 57%, respectively.
But this year, only 29% of people without a degree reported high confidence in college, compared with 47% of those with an undergraduate degree — an 18-percentage-point difference.
All age groups have questioned higher education more in recent years, though older Americans have grown the most skeptical.
Just 31% of respondents ages 55 and older said they had high confidence in college, compared to 55% in 2015. Meanwhile, around 42% of respondents ages 18 to 34 said the same, compared to 60% eight years ago.
Gallup conducted the survey between June 1 and June 22, when the organization also asked Americans about their confidence in 16 other institutions, such as Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and newspapers. Americans reported historically low confidence in many of these other groups, according to Gallup.
Although confidence has waned in higher education, in Gallup’s research it still ranks No. 4 out of all institution types, only below small business, the military and police.
Other recent polls show shifting attitudes toward college. A recent survey of high school students found 65% believed they would need postsecondary education. But 59% said they thought they could still succeed without a four-year degree.