Americans overwhelmingly support public funding for state colleges, but when it comes to raising taxes to support them, they are much more divided.

These findings come from a new WGBH News/Abt Associates poll of 1,002 adults across the country, conducted Aug. 21-25, 2018. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Seventy-eight percent say they would be concerned if their state decided to reduce funding for public colleges.

When asked if they would support higher taxes so more state residents could afford to attend a state college or university, 47 percent of respondents say yes, and 49 percent say no.

The most support for the idea of raising taxes to pay for public higher education comes from liberals, post-grads, and people age 18-29. The most opposition for this idea comes from conservatives, white Evangelical Protestants, and women without a college degree.

Americans who live in the East support raising taxes for more affordable education by a 12-point margin, while residents of the Midwest would oppose such tax increases by 13 points.

Since the 2008 recession, states have cut funding for public colleges by an average of 30 percent per full-time student, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The result is that more of the cost of attending public colleges — where the vast majority of students are enrolled — has shifted to students and their families.

The poll also found divisions when it comes to views on taxing college endowments.

The tax bill that President Trump signed into law last year imposed a tax on the investment gains of the largest college endowments. Starting this year, the 1.4 percent tax applies to 35 institutions, including Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Amherst, Williams and Smith in Massachusetts.

Fifty percent of the 1,002 adults surveyed say endowments should not be taxed, while 43 percent believe they should be.

The poll found a generational gap on this issue: 54 percent of people age 18-29 say endowments should be taxed, whereas the majority of those ages 30 and older say endowments should be tax-free.

Forty-seven percent of respondents with less than a college education support taxing endowments, compared to 33 percent of college graduates.

David Ciemnecki is a senior analyst at Abt Associates. For more on the poll's methodology, click here.

Our higher education reports are a collaboration with The Forum for the Future of Higher Education and made possible with support from Lumina Foundation and the Davis Educational Foundation.