The Campaign for Free College Tuition has asked the following question 18 times since December 2016.
Do you favor or oppose your state providing free tuition at public universities or colleges for anyone who is academically qualified?
Bi- or tri-partisan support of free college tuition among the US population remains consistent and strong with 88 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of Independents strongly supporting or somewhat supporting the idea. As CFCT quantitative research consultant Jack MacKenzie indicated in March, free college tuition might be the issue that bridges the partisan divide better than any other.
During the five-and-a-half-year period in which CFCT has been polling this issue, overall support has ranged from 70 to 81 percent. Our latest poll, conducted in July 2022, shows 78 percent overall support, which is statically identical to our February 2022 poll showing 79 percent overall support. Leading subgroups for this idea were African Americans (95 percent), Hispanics (87 percent), Asians (86 percent), Plurals aged 18 to 24 (88 percent support) and Millennials aged 25 to 34 (90 percent overall).
The poll further demonstrates that free college tuition is a position that should be embraced by candidates for state elected office. It asked respondents if they were more or less likely to support state candidates who 1) were in favor of tuition-free community college and 2) were in favor of making skills-based training free to all residents of their state. On both questions, overall and subgroup support for “more likely to support the candidate” exceeded the responses for “no impact on my support” and “less likely to support the candidate."
For tuition-free community college, the breakdown was 51 percent more likely to support, 17 percent less likely to support, and 30 percent no impact. The responses for free skill-based training were 57 percent more likely to support, 11 percent less likely to support, and 29 percent no impact. African-Americans, Plurals aged 18 to 24, and upper income Americans with a household income greater than $150,000 were the demographic subgroups that gave a stronger positive response for candidates who support tuition-free community college. Older Americans – both 55 to 64 and 65+ -- were the main demographic group indicating a stronger positive response for candidates who supported free skill-based training.
A partisan examination revealed that Republicans were particularly receptive to supporting candidates embracing free skills-based training with a 36-point positive spread between more likely to support (50 percent) and less likely to support (14 percent). The GOP spread for tuition-free community college was however only nine points positive with 36 percent more likely to support and 27 percent less likely to support. Democrats, on the other hand, embraced both concepts nearly equally with a 59-point positive spread for free skills-based training and a 58-point positive spread for tuition-free community college. Independents indicated a 40-point positive spread for free skills-based training and a 33-point positive spread for tuition-free community college.
Finally, the poll asked respondents to indicate which of the following statements were closest to their opinion.
Overall, “community colleges should be tuition-free” was the top response (33 percent) followed by “free college tuition should only be for low-income students” (27 percent) and “all public colleges and universities should be tuition-free” (26 percent). The statement “public colleges should be tuition free for everyone except high income people who can afford it” was least preferred overall (14 percent).
Support for making all colleges and universities tuition-free was the top preference of Democrats (31 percent), Plurals aged 18 to 24 (41 percent), Hispanics (40 percent) and African Americans (38 percent).
The partisan and demographic groups marking just community colleges tuition free as their top choice were Independents (33 percent), Americans 45+ -- particularly the 55 to 64 age group (40 percent), Asians (31 percent) and Caucasians (36 percent).
Republican respondents indicated “free college tuition should only be for low-income students” (34 percent) as their top response. The only other partisan or demographic groups preferring this statement were Native Americans and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.
The polling was conducted in July, 2022 in partnership with CollegeAPP and Alchemer Research with 1,001 respondents age 18+. The sample has a Margin of Error of +/-2.9% and was weighted to US Census on age, gender, race, educational attainment and region of the country.
Our goal is to make higher education a possibility for every American, without regard to their financial circumstances.
We have a lot to do and not much time to do it, so your support is critical for our campaign to succeed. It’s with your investment that we can fundamentally reform how higher education is financed in this country, opening the doors to a more equitable society.
If you agree with our goal, our plan, and the urgency of the problem, we ask that you give what you can to help us write the next chapter in our nation’s history of continuously expanding access to universal, free education.