Can Trump get enough educated voters

My good friend from grad school, one-time co-author, and all-around political scientist extraordinaire, Barry Burden, has a nice piece in the Monkey Cage looking at the growing education gap in turnout and discussing how this likely negatively affects Trump:

For years, political scientists have known about the voting gap between college grads and everyone else. In the 2012 presidential election, 58 percent of U.S. voters actually went to the polls to cast ballots. But that overall voter turnout rate disguises a lot of variation among those with differing levels of education. Only about 48 percent – or less than half — of voters who had only a high school degree cast ballots, while roughly 68 percent of voters who graduated from college went to the polls.

Few have noticed how much that the gap has increased – so much so that a college education has become an increasingly important dividing line between voters and not voters. As my research shows, that educational voting gap widened in the 1970s — and has never looked back. The graph below, drawn from data from the American National Election Study, shows voting rates in presidential elections for those who report that their highest educational attainment was either a college degree or a high school degree. I have adjusted the data to correct for overreporting.

Here’s what that means for the 2016 elections

For Trump to win the presidency, he’d have to get a bigger share of Americans without college degrees to the polls. And that’s going to be hard. A number of overlapping factors hold them back…

Winning the presidency with non-college educated whites will be a long shot in 2016. Even if the Republicans pull it off this year, that will become more difficult as the years go on — because non-college grads are a declining share of the electorate. And neither party appears to have any idea about how to turn that around.

I think Trump’s biggest problem will be driving away so many people who aren’t white men, but I also that that– at least among some college graduates– there is an embarrassment/shame in supporting Trump that just would not be the case with other, conventional Republican candidates.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Can Trump get enough educated voters

  1. ohwilleke says:

    A fair amount of the growing education gap is a statistical artifact.

    The percentage of people getting at least some college education has grown, and the people without any college education now have much weaker academic abilities, on average, than without any college education a few decades ago.

    This is also true of lots of other long term trends involving people without any college education and people who are high school dropouts. Part of this is due to an economy that has less use for less educated people, but a significant part of this is due to the average IQ, grit, work ethic, etc. of people who lack any college education steadily falling as more academically able high school graduates seek further education, while less academically able high school graduates do not.

    Degree inflation is rampant. It wasn’t so long ago that almost everyone in journalism or law enforcement or non-CPA accounting, for example, was a high school graduate with no college education. It wasn’t so long ago that professors at teaching oriented undergraduate only colleges had only MAs or even only BAs.

  2. Jeremy Tarone says:

    “…there is an embarrassment/shame in supporting Trump that just would not be the case with other, conventional Republican candidates.”

    But they should be embarrassed to support Republicans. Republicans are full of lunatics, and they support each other as if there is nothing wrong with any of them. One Republican congresswomen thinks the government is spraying mind control chemicals into jet contrails, or “chemtrails”. She’s also a 9/11 truther. Several agree that there may be something to the conspiracy theory that Obama tried to take over Texas with the armed forces. Lots believe Obama is a secret Muslim, or that he wasn’t born in America. Then there is the work they did in congress, or lack of work. The waste of taxpayer time, funds and resources with the 60 votes to repeal Obamacare. Or the attempt to force the US debt into default, against the advice of just about every economist on the planet.

    Republicans should be ashamed. it’s even more telling and frightening that they are not.
    It’s hardly a surprise to see Trump rise to the Republican party. What’s surprising is Republicans are unable to see this is exactly where the Republican party has been going for 30 years.

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