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College students — even Republicans — skeptical of crackdown on critical race theory

Data: The Generation Lab; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Nearly half of college Republicans support public schools teaching about institutional racism — and six in 10 don't think state legislatures should be able to stop it —according to a new Generation Lab/Axios poll.

Why it matters: The findings suggest that younger, educated Republicans think much differently about racism and academic freedom than GOP-led state legislatures seeking to censor the teaching of critical race theory.

By the numbers: 93% of college students overall — including 73% of college Republicans — say their high school's curriculum was flawed for focusing insufficiently, rather than too much, on the impact of racism on U.S. history.

  • 82% of college students overall say public schools should teach "that patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other institutions" — including 97% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 46% of Republicans.
  • 77%of college students overall say that state legislatures should not be able to limit how public schools or universities teach history.

Between the lines: 41% of respondents said they don't really understand the term "critical race theory."

  • 85% said they first heard about it within the last year and for 30%, this survey was their first time hearing of it.
  • Critical race theory holds that racism was ingrained into the country's foundation and has manifested throughout society's institutions.
  • In the early months of the Biden administration, the topic has bubbled up in the culture wars, and 26 states have introduced bills "or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism," Education Week reports.

Methodology: This study was conducted June 24-28 from a representative sample of810 students nationwide from 2-year and 4-year schools.The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points. The Generation Lab conducts polling using a demographically representative sample frame of college students at community colleges, technical colleges, trade schools and public and private four-year institutions.

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