White voters with at least a college degree—a group that represented more than a third of the 2012 electorate—back Clinton over Trump 48 percent to 37 percent, the latest Purple Slice online poll for Bloomberg Politics shows. Romney won that group by 14 percentage points, according to exit polls.
Among all college-educated likely voters, including those with post-graduate degrees, Clinton leads 54 percent to 32 percent, a much bigger margin than President Barack Obama’s 2-point advantage with a group that represented 47 percent of the electorate in 2012. Among voters with just a college degree and no post-graduate degree, another subgroup Romney won in 2012, Clinton is ahead 48 percent to 37 percent.
The findings suggest Trump is struggling to even rebuild the losing coalition Romney assembled, although other polls show the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee doing better among white voters without college degrees than Romney did. Since 1952, no Democratic presidential candidate has won college-educated whites, according to American National Election Studies data and exit polls reported by the Atlantic.
“It's extremely hard for any presidential candidate to win an election conceding double-digit deficits among segments of the electorate that their party has competed for and won in the past,” said pollster Doug Usher, who led the survey. “This poll indicates that Trump might be doing just that.”
White voters with college degrees could help Clinton in swing states such as Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia, where a relatively large proportion of those voters are college-educated. She could do worse than Obama did in states where whites without a college degree are more plentiful, like Iowa and Ohio.
Reflecting her gender gap, Clinton trails very slightly among college-educated white men, with Trump getting 42 percent and Clinton getting 41 percent. Among white women, Clinton outpaces Trump 54 percent to 33 percent.
The Democrat’s support, irrespective of race, grows with the poll participant's level of educational attainment. She beats Trump among those with graduate degrees 61 percent to 27 percent.
Even in a notional four-candidate field, Clinton beats Trump among college-educated likely voters, 45 percent to 27 percent. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson received 10 percent support when included in the mix of candidates, below the 15-percent average he would need in national polls to be included in this year’s presidential debates. Jill Stein, the presumptive Green Party nominee, received 3 percent.
The survey was conducted July 7-10 by Washington-based Purple Strategies, using a nationally representative online opt-in panel of 653 respondents. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for the topline results, and a higher margin of error for subgroups.
The poll is the latest in a series commissioned by Bloomberg Politics on key slices of the electorate that will help determine the outcome of the 2016 election. The last survey, in May, found Trump trailing Clinton among middle-income voters in Rust Belt states.
Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server for official materials when she was secretary of state is her biggest vulnerability among seven items tested in the poll of the college-educated. Almost half, 47 percent, said they were bothered a lot that the FBI director determined that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
For Trump, the most troubling vulnerability of eight tested among college-educated voters was his verbal treatment of women, including calling them names like “pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “bimbo.” Almost seven in 10 said they were bothered a lot by that.
College-educated Democrats are happier with Clinton being their presumptive nominee than college-educated Republicans are about Trump being theirs.
Almost a third of college-educated Democrats likely to vote, 30 percent, said they would prefer to see Clinton replaced as the nominee, while 58 percent said they would prefer that she remain the nominee. College-educated Republicans are nearly evenly split, with 43 percent supporting Trump to remain as their nominee and 42 percent preferring that he be replaced.
Clinton dominates Trump in most of the 16 candidate traits tested in the poll. The biggest gaps in those measures were on temperament, where she scored 60 percent and he received 15 percent, and foreign-policy skills, where she leads 61 percent to 18 percent.
She also dominates him on fighting for the middle class, being ready to lead the country on day one in office, ability to get things done in Washington, understanding the challenges facing people, being a good role model for children, sharing similar values as the likely voter interviewed, and caring about “people like me.”
Among college-educated voters, Clinton gets twice as much support as Trump on which would be “a good guest in my home.”
She more narrowly beats Trump on fighting terrorist threats at home and abroad, 42 percent to 37 percent, and on trustworthiness, 31 percent to 20 percent.
The one topic where Trump had a distinct advantage over Clinton among college-educated voters was on changing the way Washington does business, where Trump scored 49 percent to Clinton’s 17 percent. He also narrowly edged her out on which candidate would rein in the power of Wall Street, with 29 percent picking Trump and 24 percent Clinton.
The two are basically even among college-educated voters when it comes to having new ideas to lead the nation into the future and knowing how to create jobs.
Despite her strong electoral support among college-educated voters likely to vote, Clinton is not wildly liked by them. She’s viewed favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 53 percent.
Trump is disliked much more by those with college degrees, with just 26 percent holding a favorable view and 73 percent holding an unfavorable one. Two of Trump’s potential running mates, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are viewed almost as negatively by the group, with both men seen unfavorably by roughly six in 10.
One of the reported front-runners to be Trump’s running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, is pretty much a blank slate for most college-educated voters, with only about a quarter of them knowing enough about him to form an opinion. Ten percent view him favorably, while 14 percent view him unfavorably.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a potential Clinton running mate, is also not well known among college-educated voters, with only a quarter having an opinion. Those who did have a view about him were evenly split on viewing him favorably or unfavorably.
Obama is viewed favorably by 57 percent and unfavorably by 42 percent of college-educated voters. Former President Bill Clinton, at 55 percent, is viewed more favorably than his wife, as is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, at 54 percent. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is viewed favorably by 45 percent.
A majority of college-educated voters likely to vote, 53 percent, approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared to 39 percent who disapprove. That doesn’t mean they think the nation is headed in the right direction, with 59 percent saying it’s seriously off on the wrong track.
College-educated voters pick Clinton over Trump, 62 percent to 22 percent, when asked who they think will be the next president, regardless of whom they personally support.
Among other potential Trump vulnerabilities tested, 58 percent of college-educated voters are deeply troubled that he has proposed tax cuts for those who make more than $1 million a year.
More than half, 56 percent, said they were bothered “a lot” by Trump University, his for-profit real estate investment school that's been accused in lawsuits and by state officials of misleading students. That same percentage were that concerned about his suggestion that Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.”
For Clinton, 44 percent said they were bothered a lot by allegations that she lied about the cause of the Benghazi attacks and failed to do more to protect embassy workers, while 43 percent were deeply troubled when presented with this statement: “Critics say that Clinton is totally controlled by Wall Street—they have paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches, and she'll do what they say if she becomes president.”
The chairman of Purple Strategies, Alex Castellanos, has been hired by a super political action committee backing Trump that has no connection to the firm. He has no involvement in the planning or execution of Bloomberg’s polls with Purple and sees the results only when they are published.