Americans Divided on Obama’s Community College Proposal

Earlier this month President Obama outlined a proposal to offer students two years of free community college tuition.  The President enters the discussion about college affordability with a sizable advantage over Republicans.  According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll*, 61% of Americans believe that Obama has the better ideas to help more students afford college.  His 39-point edge over Republicans on this issue is his biggest advantage across the six items tested.

“Who do you think has the better ideas about [ITEM] – Obama or the Republicans in Congress?”

Better Ideas Table
In fact, even roughly one-in-three (29%) Republicans agree that President Obama has better ideas on college affordability.

“Helping More Students Afford College” – By Party

Afford College by Party

However, this broad generic advantage on the issue of college affordability fails to translate into overwhelming support for President Obama’s proposal.  The same ABC News/Washington Post survey found that just over half of Americans (53%) support the proposal, while 44% oppose it.  In terms of intensity, roughly the same number of adults are on both sides of the issue (38% strongly support, 33% strongly oppose).

“Obama has proposed providing free tuition to attend community colleges at a cost to the federal government of sixty billion dollars over 10 years.  Do you support or oppose this proposal?”

Support-Oppose Tuition Plan
 

A closer look at some of the demographic differences on this issue:

  • Support is predictably lower among Republicans (23% support). Majorities of Independents (54%) and Democrats (76%) support the plan.
  •  There is a significant divide based on ethnicity, with support twice as high among non-White adults (79%) than it is among White respondents (40%).
  •  Younger Americans are more positive toward the President’s proposal (65% support). Support dips to 44% among seniors.
  •  By educational attainment, Americans with post-graduate degrees are most supportive (57%).

Sub-Group Support-Oppose
While two-thirds of Americans say the President has better ideas on college affordability, there remains a significant divide over his community college proposal.

 

* N=1,003 adults nationally conducted January 12-15, 2015, via telephone.

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