The Campaign for Free College Tuition’s latest poll confirms that Americans of all political and demographic groups support federal and state programs to make public colleges tuition-free.
Our survey of 2,000 American adults conducted in January and February 2021 finds 81 percent overall support of a federal program “that provides two-years of free community college tuition to individuals looking to learn and improve their skills.” Democrats (93 percent support), Hispanics (91 percent support), Americans aged 35 to 44 (89 percent support), Americans aged 18 to 24 (88 percent support) and African Americans (87 percent support) were the subgroups most supportive of the idea.
Overall support of a federal program that makes that makes public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free for individuals with a family income below $125,000 was 72 percent. The leading subgroups for this idea were Democrats (89 percent support), African Americans (88 percent support), Hispanics (83 percent support), and Americans aged 18 to 34 (83 percent support).
Support for “your state providing free tuition at public universities or colleges for anyone who is academically qualified” continues to be strong and stable in the 15 times polled this concept since December 2016. Our current poll shows 75 percent overall support, which is statically identically to our September 2020 poll showing 76 percent overall support.
It is important to note that Republicans and Independents also support free college tuition programs. GOP respondents indicated 65 percent overall support for a federal program that provides free community college tuition, 57 percent overall support for state programs to make community colleges tuition free, and 53 percent overall support for a federal program to make public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free for individuals with a family income below $125,000. Independent support is 80 percent for both federal and state free programs making community colleges tuition-free and 78 percent for an income limited program making public four-year colleges tuition-free.
Our poll also tested 10 statements describing why some people support the idea of free college tuition and asked respondents to rate their persuasiveness. The most persuasive message overall was: “lack of money shouldn't keep qualified students from going to college, and my state government should help” with 80 percent of all respondents – including 92 percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of African Americans, and 86 percent of Hispanics – indicating persuasiveness.
That message was closely followed by “free college tuition will strengthen our nation by giving people the skills they need to provide for their families” with 78 percent overall persuasiveness.
African American and Hispanic respondents however indicated that “a federal/state partnership to make college tuition free is a smart investment in our nation’s economic recovery” was the second most persuasive argument with 89 percent of African Americans and 85 percent of Hispanics indicating persuasiveness.
For more information on CFCT’s poll, please view the following presentation by CFCT pollster Jack MacKenzie.
The polling was conducted in partnership with CollegeAPP, PSB Research and SurveyGizmo with 2,000 respondents age 18+. The sample has a Margin of Error of +/-2.2% 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.