BIPP researchers poll the nation on higher education

The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy conducted a nationwide poll over the summer

Sasha Weilbaker, Senior Writer

From July 25 to Aug. 1, the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy (BIPP) worked with YouGov, a market research company, to poll the nation on their perceptions of higher education.The poll surveyed 1,200 people on issues relating to higher education, such as athletics, sexual assault, diversity, and the purpose of higher education. The poll measured participants based on their political affiliation.

According to their website, BIPP is a campus organization that provides a forum for public policy discussion and a mechanism to support faculty-guided undergraduate research.

“The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy has funded surveys the past two summers, as part of our new Survey Research Initiative,” director of BIPP and professor of economics Amy Wolaver said. “These surveys give opportunities for students to engage in undergraduate research, support faculty scholarship, and add resources for faculty to use in their classes.”

Will Bordash ’18 and Brayden Zimmerman ’20 have been working with BIPP as data analysts for the project.

“It has been an exciting past year working with the information that we have been able to process. We try to get a new release out every week or so on our page,” Bordash said. “Recently our goals have been to open a dialog and provide the base data and visualizations to larger news sources, [which] can build stories around our findings to a larger audience.”

Associate professor of political science and director of the University’s Survey Research Initiative, Chris Ellis, said that one of the reasons the survey was conducted was to have national survey data to examine in his course, “Politics of College.”

“Issues of higher education have become increasingly common among policymakers and the general public,” Ellis said. He also pointed out the importance of adding to the public discourse surrounding higher education in a way that is scientific and data-driven.

Ellis and Wolaver, as well as the rest of the BIPP team, learned from the poll results that essentially no issue relating to higher education remains untouched by politics.

“We found deep divides [in the poll] between Democrats and Republicans… not just on ‘hot-button’ issues like free speech, but on more subtle things, like whether athletes should be paid, whether colleges should be focused primarily on helping students, and the kinds of things colleges should care about when admitting students,” Ellis said.

Bordash echoed these findings in his own experience with the BIPP data.

“With a polarizing political system that has now begun to move into areas that are usually not politicized, such as sports, we are finding some interesting trends with our past survey that we sent out this past summer,” Bordash said. “Over the next few months, we plan to break down areas such as reasons for higher education, sexual conduct on campuses across the United States, views on student-athletes, and student debt vs. government responsibility.”

New analyses on the poll data will be conducted by student interns in the upcoming weeks. The complete results of the poll can be found at http://bipp.blogs.bucknell.edu/files/2017/09/BIPP-Higher-Ed-Toplines.pdf.

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