On The Brains of Elephants and Donkeys:
Americans woke up on November 9th of 2016 to a shocking realization: Donald Trump had won the presidency. This man, called misogynistic and racist by many, garnered 62 more electoral votes than his democratic rival. Many people were left gobsmacked, bewildered, and parroting the same question to the tune of Hail to the Chief: “Why?” It might have come down to educational differences. While typically taking a back seat to matters of gender, religion, and age, this election witnessed a record-breaking party-based divide between voters with and without a college degree. We’ll look at the numbers behind this phenomenon and dive into why higher-education might make you bleed blue. After all, at EduInReview, education’s our specialty.
WHAT THE EXIT POLLS SAID:
Among college-educated voters, Hillary Clinton (D) led Donald Trump (R) by nearly twenty-three percentage points. While this did not allow her to win, it highlighted a trend that has held true in nearly every presidential election in the past two decades: college-educated voters prefer Democratic candidates. In 2012, for example, Barack Obama (D) won two-percent more of the popular vote in this category than opponent Mitt Romney (R). For those with some college or less under their belts, the results have not always been so clear-cut. In 1996, those without a college degree favored Bill Clinton (D) over Bob Dole (R) by amounts as high as 14 percentage points. In the 2016 election, that same group preferred Donald Trump by a margin of just over five percent. While this educational divide is nothing new among voters, especially those identifying as Caucasian, this election saw it widen to levels previously unheard of. If current trends continue, your level of education might become a go-to crystal ball for pollsters everywhere.
WHY DO COLLEGE GRADUATES BLEED BLUE?
Nearly 40-percent of working Americans hold a four-year college degree. Some call that indoctrination. Others call it education. Regardless of your viewpoint on modern day academia, you have to agree that a higher-education changes people. But, does that mean making them more liberal? Putting aside the argument of predisposition, the numbers point to one answer: probably. As time passes, that answer’s moving closer and closer to a clear cut ‘yes’. Over the past twenty years, the number of college alumni who identify as liberal has grown sharply. According to polling results from National Public Radio, 44-percent of college graduates fall under a heading of “mostly liberal” or “consistently liberal”. In 1994, only 25-percent of college graduates fell into these categories.
What could be causing this phenomenon? There are four reasons commonly cited reasons:
- A Liberal Predisposition: This argument proposes that people who are more left-leaning are more likely to attend college in the first place. These citizens may be the ones predisposed find the idea of further education fulfilling. The fact that roughly 60-percent of professors identify as liberal, or far left, might help make Democratic voters feel right at home.
- The Rise of Women in Education: Women accounted for 55-percent of undergraduates enrolled at four-year programs in 2014. This drastic rise in female students is balanced by stagnation amongst their male counterparts. This is important. In 2016, the Pew Research center found that more than half of all women identify as democratic. Therefore, as the number of women in higher education rises, it stands to reason that the overall college population would begin to lean leftward.
- Curricular Requirements: Colleges across the nation require students to take courses in everything from gender studies to sociology. Promoting a more tolerant view of the world, something commonly touted by the Democratic Party, these classes help spread the group’s viewpoint on matters of race, religion, and gender.
- Growing Insularity: While we like to think that opposites attract, that’s not always the case. Popularized in 2008 by Bill Bishop’s book, The Big Sort, is the idea that more and more Americans choose to live alongside like-minded people. As you find yourself in a more homogeneous community, a pressure to conform can slowly mold your viewpoint to match that of your neighbors.
WHY DO THOSE WITHOUT A COLLEGE EDUCATION LEAN RIGHT?
Aren’t the Democrats the party of the working class? Don’t they work to protect the unions and lift people up from the bottom? Some Americans find the rightward lean of rural, religious, less educated, and often impoverished Americans to be downright baffling. Confusing or not, it’s a trend that’s held true in recent years. In the 2012 election, the Pew Research Center reported that the GOP held a 17-percentage point lead over democrats among citizens without a college degree. Meanwhile, in the 2016 election, Donald Trump skated to victory by a rather comfortable margin. Before thinks this is a matter of ignorance, they must understand what most of this group shares: a shaky economic situation.
According to a 2011 study, those without a college degree earn roughly 30,000 dollars a year. That boils down to just 577 dollars per week. That’s not much. It’s these people who face the constant threat of jobs being lost to overseas markets. It’s this group of people that worries about putting food on the table. But, with all that in mind, what convinces these people, and others, that a Republican candidate, like Trump, could be right for them?
- Liberal Elitism: Some people in this class feel as if they’re looked down upon by the Democratic Party and its affiliates. Their policies, such as increasing food stamps, seem to promote the idea that these impoverished, and often forgotten people, are lazy. Liberalism is typically affiliated with atheism and this is typically associated with a scathing view of the truly devout. Somehow, though many of their policies seemed aimed at helping the working and blue collar classes, liberals have managed to alienate those very groups.
- Cultural Issues: Much of this rightward lean can be directly attributed to the cultural beliefs shared among working class Americans. As much of this group tends to be highly religious, the morally conservative message of the Republicans comes through loud and clear. It’s the right-winged party that’s pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-Christian values after all. That’s one factor that drives those without an education to vote red year after year.
- Paranoia-Fueled Politics: The GOP’s tendency towards stronger security, and protectionist policies, also earn them the appreciation of America’s less educated. They’re the party that proposes building border walls, tearing down trade deals like NAFTA, and raising tariffs. To someone constantly afraid of losing their job, this rhetoric sounds like the singing of angels. Some people, perhaps erroneously, accuse republicans of stoking the fear among these people via racist, sexist, and culture-based jibes.
Please note that wealthier republicans without a degree tend to act completely different from their less successful counterparts. You can read more about that at this link.
This voting gap between those with and without a college degree has widened drastically in the face of the 2016 election. Judging by various studies and surveys, this ravine will not be shrinking anytime soon. The GOP will continue to garner favor with the working class. Democrats will maintain their advantage with the well-educated. We may have found our new quid pro quo.