What you think about church, universities and the national media depends greatly on whether or not you identify with the Republican or Democratic party.  And it’s likely that if you identify as a conservative, your views on higher education have changed significantly in just the last year.

That’s the conclusion of a new poll from the Pew Research Center.  It found that almost three-quarters of Republicans and “Republican leaners” believe that churches and religious organizations have a positive effect on the country compared to just half of Democrats and “Democratic leaners.”  

Overall, 59 percent of the public says that churches have a positive effect compared to 26 percent which say they have a negative effect.  That view has changed little in recent years according to Pew.

Also, 85 percent of Republicans say the news media has a negative effect.  That view has not changed much recently.

Democrats, however, have changed in their view of the media.  Forty-four percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents hold a positive view compared to just 33 percent last August.

What has also changed is the way that conservatives view higher education.  In the last year, Republicans and Republican leaning independents have become increasingly pessimistic in their attitudes towards these institutions.  Fifty-eight percent now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45 percent last year.

This could be driven in part by the fact that 60 percent of college faculty now identify as liberal or far-left and many are not hesitant to share their views in the classroom.

The banning of conservative speakers on prominent college campuses, justified as a safety issue, may also be encouraging the negative view among conservatives.

It could also be the result of a growing movement on campuses to chill free speech among students in the name of tolerance.  Even liberals like pundit Kristen Powers have noted the squashing of civil debate at universities.  In her 2015 book “The Silencing” the CNN commentator cited numerous examples of attacks against conservative students, including the feminist professor in California who called pro-life demonstrators terrorists and stole their sign.  

The booting of Christian clubs on college campuses like Vanderbilt University is another key concern as is the use of “free speech zones” that silence individuals and groups on campuses.  At Clemson University in South Carolina, an administrator asked a man who was praying to leave because he was not in a free speech zone.
 

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