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Americans Agree Clinton’s Free College Plan Isn’t Free

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Democrats are a lot more enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton’s plan for so-called “free” college than other Americans are, but all agree that taxpayers will be the ones who pick up the tab.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 45% of all American Adults favor eliminating tuition at in-state public colleges for families with annual incomes under $125,000. Nearly as many (43%) are opposed.  Twelve percent (12%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But a closer look shows that while 69% of Democrats favor Clinton’s free college proposal, 59% of Republicans and those not affiliated with either major party by a 49% to 36% margin oppose it.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of all adults recognize, too, that when politicians promise to make college tuition free, it means taxpayers will be paying that tuition. Just seven percent (7%) think it means college will really be free. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.

Bernie Sanders yesterday endorsed Clinton, his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, in part because she has picked up his plan for tuition-free college. A number of Democratic Senate candidates also have embraced the plan, according to the New York Times.

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The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on July 10-11, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters in January of last year favored President Obama’s plan for making community college tuition-free, but just 34% were willing to pay more in taxes to fund it.

Women are more supportive of the free college plan than men are. Americans with children in the home are more likely to oppose the plan, though, than those without children living with them.

The proposal appears to be a winner for Clinton among younger Americans whom she has been struggling to attract. Fifty-four percent (54%) of those under 40 favor her free-college plan, compared to roughly 40% of older adults.

These younger adults are twice as likely as their elders to think free college is really free, but the vast majority of Americans in all age groups agree that taxpayers will be paying that tuition.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of blacks support the tuition-free plan, compared to 44% of whites and 39% of other minority adults.

Democrats are only slightly less likely than Republicans and unaffiliateds to say taxpayers will end up paying the tuition for those who attend college for free.

Among voters who favor Clinton’s plan, 12% believe free college is really free; 72% do not. Ninety-four percent (94%) of those who oppose the plan say taxpayers will be paying that tuition.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters are far more likely to view government as a problem, while most Democrats see it as the solution to problems instead.

Just 35% of Americans think most college graduates have the skills needed to enter the workforce. 

A year ago, 58% said everyone should attend a post-secondary school institution of some kind, whether it be college or some kind of vocational school. Fifty-five percent (55%) said a college degree is a good financial investment in today's economic environment.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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