What college-educated, white Democrats and minority Democrats have in common

In a word: optimism.  Another one of Tom Edsall’s truly great deep dives into the data and social science research:

Democrats, including the party’s elite, remain decisively liberal, and have become more cosmopolitan — more readily accepting of globalization, more welcoming of immigrants, less nationalistic — and more optimistic about the future. [emphases mine]

The Pew Research Center found in April 2016 that:

Highly educated adults – particularly those who have attended graduate school – are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.

From 1994 to 2014, the percentage of voters with postgraduate degrees holding “consistently liberal” views grew fourfold, from 7 to 31 percent, and fivefold among those with college degrees, 5 to 24 percent.

Whites remain the majority in both political parties, 57 percent of Democratic voters and 86 percent of Republicans. White Democrats share a high level of optimism with the two largest Democratic minority constituencies, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Working class African-Americans and Hispanics are, like their white counterparts without degrees, on the low end of the income distribution. When blacks and Hispanics compare their situations to those of their parents, they see their circumstances improving, in contrast to low income, non-college whites, who see a downward trajectory.

As Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins, wrote in February in these pages, African-Americans

may look back to a time when discrimination deprived their parents of equal opportunities. Many Hispanics may look back to the lower standard of living their parents experienced in their countries of origin. Whites are likely to compare themselves to a reference group that leads them to feel worse off. Blacks and Hispanics compare themselves to reference groups that may make them feel better off.

For many whites, Cherlin writes,

their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament

Less well-educated blacks and Hispanics have not experienced the income gains of the college-educated of all races, but they do see their lives improving when their parents are the reference point.

This is reflected in responses in an August 2016 Pew report to the question “compared with 50 years ago, life for people like you in America today is worse, better or the same?”

The optimists: Clinton supporters (59 better, 19 worse), Democrats (55-23), white college grads (43-39), African-Americans (51-20), voters with post graduate degrees (51-29). A separate June 2016 Pew survey of Hispanic voters found that 81 percent of Clinton supporters expect their family’s finances to improve in the near term, and 72 percent said they expect their children to be better off than they are.

The pessimists: Trump supporters (81 worse, 11 better), Republicans (72-17) and whites without college degrees (60-28).

Among well-educated whites, there are clear reasons for optimism. What is a primary marker of likely success in the contemporary American economy? The answer in one word is education…

The shift of working class whites over the past half-century from the Democratic to Republican Party gained momentum after Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson were granted prime time spots at the 1992 Republican convention to give fire-breathing speeches celebrating social conservatism that drove many suburbanites out of the Republican Party into the Democratic Party.

Looking now at the changing composition of the Republican electorate, what stands out is the failure of party leaders to anticipate the discontent of their own primary voters.

Preliminary indications are that the traditional top levels of the Republican Party hierarchy — heavily populated by the affluent and the wealthy — will face major hurdles retaining control after the coming election. The Trump campaign has demonstrated that many Republican voters are deeply critical of their own party establishment, to put it mildly…

The largely white upscale wing of the Democratic Party is far more liberal on economic policy than its self-interest would suggest. In the UVA-IASC survey, the social elite is not only sympathetic to the poor and to pro-government intervention, but, by 3 to 1, believes that the “system is rigged in favor” of the wealthy; by nearly 6 to 1 believes that Wall Street and big business “profit at the expense of ordinary Americans;” and believes, by better than 2 to 1, that the government “should do more to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.”

This is a longer piece, but so, so much goodness in here.  I expect I will be referring back to the ideas in here many, many times in the future.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to What college-educated, white Democrats and minority Democrats have in common

  1. Mika says:

    Yeah, good stuff.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    The triumph of liberalism – it has produced an elite who actually believes in nobless oblige!
    And some of that elite have limited the inheritance of their children, the true measure of their acceptance of liberal values.
    Notice, their kids are still going to be comfortable but not so dynastic.

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