Quinnipiac Poll: Most Voters Oppose Free College

By Allie Arcese, Sr. Director of Strategic Communications & Engagement

By Allie Bidwell, NASFAA Senior Reporter

As the race for the 2020 presidential election ramps up, a new Quinnipiac University National Poll released Wednesday found the majority of voters oppose the idea of making all public colleges free—an idea that has been floated in one form or another by nearly all Democratic candidates.

The poll found that overall, 52% of those polled opposed making all public colleges in the United States free to attend, while 45% supported the idea. Broken down by political affiliation, 84% of Republicans opposed and 14% supported the idea, while just 26% of Democrats opposed and 68% supported. Support was slightly higher among women, at 51%, those between the ages of 18 and 34, at 61%, and black and Hispanic participants, at 66% and 63%, respectively.

The poll also posed the question a different way, asking participants if they would support making all public colleges free to attend if it was paid for by a tax on the wealthy. Overall, 54% opposed and 41% supported that idea. Among Republicans, 86% opposed and 13% supported the idea, while 25% of Democrats supported and 67% opposed. Support was highest among those between the ages of 18 and 34, at 52%, and among black and Hispanic participants, at 56% and 54%, respectively.

"It's almost a tossup, but if a vote were taken on free public college, the educated guess is that it would go down," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

There was more support, however, for forgiving up to $50,000 in student loans for individuals who live in households that make less than $250,000 a year. Overall, 57% supported and 40% opposed this idea. Sixty-six percent of Republicans opposed the idea, while 30% supported it. Among Democrats, just 18% opposed the idea and 70% supported it. Similarly, support was higher among women, younger voters, and black and Hispanic voters. Support and opposition was evenly split among voters with and without a college degree.

Overall opposition grew when voters were asked if they’d support the plan if it was paid for by a tax on the wealthy, with 52% opposing and 44% supporting it. Still, nearly three-quarters of Democrats would support the idea, at 72%.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a presidential candidate, recently unveiled an extensive higher education policy platform, including a plan to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with household incomes up to $100,000, and partial forgiveness for those with household incomes between $100,000 and $250,000, an idea that has received mixed reviews within the higher education policy community.

Warren also proposed making two- and four-year college tuition-free and debt-free. Both plans would be paid for by what Warren called her “Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2% annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth.”


Publication Date: 5/2/2019

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