Democratic Support of Free College is Extremely Strong

Posted by Morley Winograd on June 24, 2019 at 4:44 PM

The Campaign for Free College Tuition in partnership with PSB Research recently surveyed 1901 Americans – including 1146 self-identified Democrats and individuals who lean Democrat. The survey was fielded June 7-13, 2019. PSB weighed the overall sample to US Census for age, gender, and ethnicity. Key findings of interest can be found below.

Overall Democratic Support of Free College is Extremely Strong

Nationwide polling conducted June 7 to 13, 2019 by PSB Research for the Campaign for Free College Tuition (CFCT) reveals strong Democratic support across all age groups for free college tuition. Overall, 87 percent of Democrats want their state to provide free tuition at public college or universities to any academically qualified student.


Democratic Support for a Federal “Free College for All” Proposal is Slightly Softer

Changing the wording from “states to offer free college tuition to anyone academically qualified to “a federal proposal known as “Free College for All” slightly softens Democratic support for the issue. While the support from each age group falls between 4 – 7 percent, federal “Free College for All” still commands a resounding 83 percent support (51 percent strong support) among Democrats.


Millennial and Pluralist Generation Democrats are Driving the Support for Free College

Democrats under age 50 are the strongest supporters of free college tuition. When asked about support for their state providing free college tuition to anyone who is academically qualified, Democratic Plurals (the generation born after Millennials) and Millennials between ages 18 and 34 indicated 87 percent support (61 percent strong support) and Democratic Millennials and Xers between ages 35 and 49 indicate 92 percent support (64 percent strong support).

Free College Tuition Ranks Second Among Democratic Voters

The poll also asked respondents to rank their support of the following federal proposals – all of which are popular among self-identified Democrats: Free College Tuition; Medicare for All; the Green New Deal, and; Universal Pre-K education.  

Medicare for All was the clear winner in this ranking exercise with 70 percent of Democratic respondents saying it was either their first or second priority. Free College Tuition was the next highest priority with 50 percent of Democrats saying it was either their first or second priority. This support was fueled by the Millennial and Pluralist generations, as well as by Moms (62 percent indicating it as their first or second priority) and African-Americans (61 percent top two support). 

College Cost Messages Resonate with Democrats

Six potential messages that could be used to describe a reason to support free college tuition were tested in the poll. In this exercise, respondents reacted most positively to messages about the cost of college for the individual – both in accessing a college education as well as paying for it upon graduation. The two most persuasive message to Democratic respondents were:  

“Lack of money shouldn't keep qualified students from going to college, and the government should help” (30 percent of respondents)

“We need to make college tuition-free so young people don't have a mountain of debt when they finish school.” (20 percent of respondents)

Democrats considered messages about benefits to the economy less persuasive.

Independents and Republicans Support Free College Too

Tuition-free college is embraced across all political and demographic lines. Overall, 71 percent of all Americans want their state to provide free tuition at public college or universities to any academically qualified student. PSB’s June Pulse Poll indicated that over two-thirds of Independents (71 percent) and a majority of Republicans (57 percent) also support state free college programs.



For additional polling information, see full memo below.

We can't do this alone!

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.

The Campaign for Free College Tuition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established in the State of Washington in 2014 to educate parents, students, the higher education community, policy makers and taxpayers about efforts needed to fundamentally reform our nation’s system for financing higher education. This website and CFCT’s educational outreach activities are made possible through generous individual and foundation support.