Poll: Only 28 Percent of the Public Has “High Confidence” in Higher Education

by | Jun 18, 2024

A new poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago (commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) shows that only 28% of Americans have a lot of trust in higher education. Academia has continued to alienate much of the country as an orthodox echo chamber. As with media outlets, the result has been falling interest and trust in these institutions.The poll asked “How much confidence, if any, do you have in U.S. colleges and universities?”

Only 28% said they had a “great deal of confidence in colleges and universities.” Not surprisingly, given the ideological balance at most schools, the highest levels of trust came from Democrats and liberals. However, even this group only showed a 40% high confidence rate. Among Republicans, it drops to 12% and among independents it drops to 28%.

For most businesses, such negative reactions would be viewed as catastrophic. For academia, it will not matter a whit.

It is still personally beneficial for professors and administrators to push ideological agendas and maintain the lack of intellectual diversity on campuses. These professors are not challenged in their writings or their statements. They dominate publications, awards, and associations. In the meantime, these schools still receive sufficient support from alumni and, in the case of public universities, public funding.

This could not come at a worse time as many decide that college is simply not worth the money. At the same time, falling birthrates are impacting dropping applications. Others have little interest in going to institutions where they must hide their political viewpoints or values.

We have seen the same phenomenon in the media where media outlets are collapsing in viewership or readership but reporters are resisting every effort to return to a more neutral and objective basis for coverage. Recently, the Washington Post’s new publisher and CEO William Lewis dropped a truth bomb on his writers by telling them “Let’s not sugarcoat it…We are losing large amounts of money. Your audience has halved in recent years. People are not reading your stuff. Right. I can’t sugarcoat it anymore.”

The response from the media has been a campaign against Lewis and another editor tasked with saving the newspaper from itself. The New York Times, National Public Radio, and other outlets have piled on Lewis with a series of attack pieces. This is being actively and openly supported by reporters at the Post and could well work in pressuring owner Jeff Bezos. The result will be to stay the course of plunging trust and readership at a paper that is hemorrhaging money and readers.

We need great universities and great newspapers as a nation. We need Princeton and the Post. That is why this trend is so alarming. These are hardened silos that seem impenetrable to efforts to restore trust in their product.

Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.


  • Jonathan Turley

    Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.

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