One of Donald Trump's most famous pronouncements during the presidential campaign was his February 2016 statement that he loves "the poorly educated." And they loved him right back, as large majorities of non-college educated voters backed Trump regardless of their household income level.
Attacks on "coastal elites" and others who generally use their brains rather than their Bibles for problem solving have become a staple of right-wing media in recent years, as the GOP has openly advocated lack of knowledge as a condition to be encouraged. And according to a Pew Research survey, their efforts appear to be paying off.
Pew asked respondents for their opinions on whether various institutions have a positive or a negative impact on the country. Not surprisingly, Republicans took a dim view of the news media and labor unions, while generally lauding churches and banks. But Republicans and right-leaning independents, by a substantial margin, said that colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the country.
Right-wing opinions on colleges have changed dramatically already in the age of Trump. Pew says that just last year, 45 percent of Republicans surveyed said colleges were having a negative impact on America. Forty-five percent is still a ridiculously high number for that response, but at least it was a minority. Two years ago, GOP voters saw colleges as a positive by a count of 54 to 37 percent. That number has now been stood on its head.
Maybe the most mind-boggling finding in Pew's survey is that universities and colleges are held in increasingly low regard even by Republican college graduates. In 2015, 44 percent of GOP respondents with one or more college degrees felt that higher education institutions had a positive effect on the country. That number has now declined to 33 percent. And in 2017, for the first time, a majority of younger Republicans agree with their older counterparts that colleges are a negative influence.
What exactly is this "negative impact" that conservatives see from colleges? Pew's study didn't look into specifics, but their objections no doubt are connected to liberal arts colleges' search for truth, which is of course anathema to the right, on everything from climate change to healthcare. Whenever a Republican goes after a university or professor for "indoctrinating" students it is often because said institution or person has presented students with a truth that contradicts GOP beliefs. Or in some cases simply because students are presented with facts and encouraged to draw their own conclusions.
From where I sit, it is amazing that anyone would see the influence of colleges as a bad thing. My father was a high school dropout who drove trucks for a living and held a union job during an era when circumstances such as those allowed you to provide a good life for your family. But despite the fact that we had a good middle class life, the thing that he wanted for me, more than anything else, was that I get a good education, so that I would have more opportunities in my life than he had. That is something you would expect any parent to want for his or her children. Apparently not so much if you're a Republican.