Republicans have far less confidence in higher education than their Democratic counterparts. With the current college campus climate, it’s not terribly difficult to see why.

Both parties come to the table with varying perspectives though, and that plays into the vast difference in perception of higher education.

From Inside Higher Ed:

Not only do Republicans and Democrats have different levels of confidence in higher education, but they are coming at the issue by focusing on different issues, a new poll by Gallup shows. Republicans who distrust higher education focus on campus politics, while the smaller share of Democrats who distrust higher education tend to focus on rising college prices, the pollster found.

The data were released a month after a report from the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Republicans say colleges have a negative impact on the direction of the United States. The shift was dramatic. Two years ago, Pew found that 54 percent of Republicans said colleges had a positive impact on the direction of the United States, while this year 58 percent said colleges had a negative effect. Among Democrats, 72 percent this year viewed colleges as having a positive impact on the direction of the country.

Gallup set out to see if it would find similar partisan shifts in the view of higher education, and — if so — why members of the two major parties were splitting in this way. Gallup’s findings largely confirm those of Pew — a growing partisan divide on higher education.

In this context, the Pew and Gallup findings suggest a shift in attitudes in which Republicans have a much stronger aversion to the direction of higher education, which they see as too liberal. The questions asked in the Gallup study were so general (without any definition of “college”) that many may not have thought of parts of higher education (community colleges, evangelical colleges or professionally oriented online programs) that look nothing like the residential liberal arts colleges that are mocked — many times inaccurately — in the conservative blogosphere on a daily basis.

An analysis released by Gallup, while not endorsing the views of the Republicans surveyed, says that their attitudes could have a significant impact on higher education.

“The effect of this divide on views of higher education — a pivotal element of the American dream for so many — raises questions about the future of higher education in this country,” the Gallup analysis says. “To what degree will diminished confidence in higher education among Republicans lead to decreased public support and funding for colleges and universities? Or, will Republican families be less likely to send their children to traditional colleges and universities, and instead seek other ways to educate them? Will various colleges and universities begin to align their brands and curricula increasingly along party lines? Is there any hope that this partisan divide on views of higher education will diminish — and if so, what would bring that about?”

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