ERIC Number: ED368247
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1994-Mar-25
Listening to the Public: The Key to a Constructive Debate about Higher Education.
Using recent research on public attitudes about higher education some principles of public opinion formation may help higher education respond to its current challenges. That research shows parallel public attitudes to higher education and health care reform. On both issues people want change. They are not sure what is wrong, but they are scared about rising costs and worried that something they value may be moving out of reach. The evolution of public opinion is complicated; citizens go through a complex and subtle progression of seven stages as they learn about issues, confront them, and develop firm and stable views about what should be done. Thus the challenge is to understand which opinions are firmly held and unlikely to change. The stages of public opinion formation yield the following lessons for higher education: (1) realize that the public is on a different timetable from leadership, usually far behind in developing their opinions; (2) be realistic about the public's resistance and work to understand it and to address it; (3) give the public real choices and spell out their costs and tradeoffs; (4) frame higher education choices in terms of the core values that people say are important to them; and (5) be patient as public opinion formation sometimes takes years. (JB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Public Agenda Foundation, New York, NY.
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Higher Education (Chicago, IL, March 24-25, 1994).