September 13, 2017

Republicans much ‘colder’ than Democrats in views of professors

Republicans have recently turned negative in their assessments of the impact of colleges and universities, and a new survey finds that they also have a skeptical view of college professors. More Republicans offer a cold than warm view of professors on a “feeling thermometer” scale ranging from 0 to 100, with an average rating of 46.

Democrats, by contrast, give professors a warm rating (71 on average), consistent with their positive view of the impact of colleges and universities.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted on the American Trends Panel in August, asks the public to rate a number of groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 is the coldest, most negative rating and 100 is the warmest, most positive. Overall, about half of the public (49%) gives college professors at least a somewhat warm rating, including a third (33%) who rate professors very warmly. Fewer (24%) give professors a cold rating, while 26% have a neutral view of professors.

Democrats have a broadly positive view of college professors. About two-thirds (66%) give professors a warm rating, while just 7% offer a cold rating and 24% express a neutral view. Liberal Democrats are more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to rate professors warmly, though majorities of both groups do so (76% and 56%, respectively).

Views among Republicans are much chillier: 43% give cold ratings to college professors, including about a quarter (27%) who give a very cold rating. A significantly smaller share of Republicans (30%) give professors a warm rating, while 25% take a neutral view. Conservative Republicans are especially likely to give very (31%) or somewhat (20%) cold ratings to professors. By contrast, moderate and liberal Republicans hold quite different views: More offer warm (49%) than cold (20%) assessments of professors.

Views of college professors are warmer among college graduates, and this is the case within both parties. Yet Republican views of professors are far more negative than Democratic views across all levels of education.

Overall, 43% of Republican college graduates offer a warm rating of professors, while about as many (40%) rate them coldly. By 45% to 26%, more Republicans without a college degree express a cold than warm view of professors.

Among Democrats, views are especially positive among postgraduates and college graduates. For example, 93% of Democrats with postgraduate degrees rate professors warmly, including 72% who rate them very warmly. About half (49%) of Democrats with a high school degree or less education rate professors warmly on the scale; just 11% offer a cold rating, while 34% are neutral.

Some of the coldest views of professors are held by older Republicans. Among Republicans age 65 and older, fully 64% have a cold view of professors (including 43% who have a very cold view), while just 15% offer a warm rating. Among Republicans under age 40, by contrast, more rate college professors warmly (47%) than coldly (27%).

Topics: Education, U.S. Political Parties, Political Party Affiliation, Educational Attainment, Political Polarization

  1. Photo of Hannah Fingerhut

    is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.