03/02/2012 12:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pew Research Center Finds Most Americans View Colleges Favorably

Americans across party lines have a pretty high opinion of colleges.

In a new Pew Research Center poll, only small businesses and technology companies enjoyed a favorability rating higher than colleges.

Overall, 60 percent said colleges had a positive impact on the way things are going in the country with 20 percent saying they had a negative impact. A majority of Republicans also said college had a positive impact, but among self-identified conservative Republicans 46 percent said college was positive while 39 percent viewed it negatively.

The Pew research also noted, in a March 2011 poll, American college graduates believe college is a good investment by at least a 4 to 1 ratio, even among conservative Republicans.

There was an ideological divide on the question of what is the main purpose of college. Fifty-two percent of conservative Republicans said the main purpose of college is to teach specific skills while 36 percent said its purpose should be to help an individual grow mentally and intellectually. More liberal Democrats thought college was to help a person grow.

The Pew Center found most Republicans hold a higher opinion of churches and religious institutions than they do colleges, however, Democrats favored colleges over churches.