Donald Trump is decisively winning white voters who don’t have more than a high-school education, but his stubborn unpopularity with minorities has given Hillary Clinton a narrow overall lead with America’s least-educated voters.
Those findings from the latest Purple Slice online poll for Bloomberg Politics highlight two of the biggest demographic fault lines in this year’s presidential race: educational attainment and race.
In a two-way contest, Trump is backed by 55 percent of whites with no more than a high-school degree, compared to 33 percent for Clinton.
Yet among all likely voters who haven’t attended college—a group that accounted for 24 percent of the 2012 electorate—Clinton leads Trump 47 percent to 42 percent in a two-way contest. She’s buoyed by support from 83 percent of non-white, no-college voters to Trump’s 10 percent.
As well as Trump is doing among white voters with no college, he’s not doing as well as Republican Mitt Romney finished four years ago against President Barack Obama. Romney had a 26-point advantage with the group, according to exit polls, 4 points more than recorded for Trump in this survey.
For her part, Clinton is running about the same as Obama finished with no-college voters overall.
One of the major problems confronting Trump is that he’s running so poorly among college-educated voters whom he needs to win—much worse than Romney finished in 2012.
“Trump’s support among white voters within this group is quite strong,” said pollster Doug Usher, who led this survey for the Washington-based Purple Strategies. “As we look at key swing states, including places like Iowa and Ohio, his ability to turn them out could make the difference between winning and losing.”
In a four-way race, Clinton has the support of 41 percent of likely voters who haven’t attended college, followed by Trump at 39 percent, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson at 6 percent, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 3 percent.
Usher said he’s unsure whether the proportion of minority voters within the less-educated segment will continue to increase as it has during the last couple of presidential votes, in which the nation’s first black president was elected and re-elected. “With Obama off the ballot, that may change the composition in a way that helps Trump and hurts Clinton,” Usher said.
Even among Trump’s core supporters, white voters who haven’t attended college, he’s viewed favorably by just 53 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent. Clinton does even worse with that group: 31 percent favorable, 67 percent unfavorable. Among non-white, no-college voters, the results are reversed, with Clinton viewed favorably by 78 percent and Trump viewed favorably by just 17 percent.
In the two-way contest for support, white men with no college experience back Trump over Clinton, 57 percent to 32 percent; for white women, 53 percent to 34 percent.
The survey was conducted Sept. 1-6, using a nationally representative online opt-in panel of 603 respondents. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the top-line 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. The last survey, in July, found Trump trailing Clinton by 11 percentage points among white college-educated voters, a group Republicans have carried in presidential contests for decades.
Usher said pollsters are still finding their way when it comes to online surveys and that the less-educated segment of the electorate tends to be less active online than others.
“We paid close attention to known demographics—including age, race, and gender—to be sure that the sample was balanced to known parameters,” he said. “While it is possible that the methodology may exclude Trump supporters, we have no reason to believe that it is not equally likely to exclude Clinton supporters.”
Trump’s core supporters, whites with no more than a high-school degree—are skeptical of his chances of victory. Asked who they think will be the next president, regardless of their personal support, 44 percent say Clinton and 37 percent pick Trump.
Likely voters with no college experience are mostly negative about the nation’s direction, with 64 percent saying the country is seriously off on the wrong track. Whites with a only a high-school degree or less are slightly more pessimistic, with 71 percent saying the nation is headed the wrong way.
Whites with no more than a high-school degree give Trump the advantage on virtually all of 17 candidate qualities tested, with the exceptions being having the right temperament to be president, possessing the skills needed to conduct foreign policy, and being a good role model for children. On those three questions, Clinton tied or only narrowly beat him.
Reflecting her overwhelming strength with minority voters, Clinton does much better when the filter is set to all likely voters without college experience. Then, Clinton wins on roughly half the qualities tested, performing most strongly on those same three qualities.
Among all no-college likely voters, Trump leads the most on changing Washington, knowing what it takes to create jobs, and “sharing my views on dealing with undocumented immigrants.”
The FBI director’s determination that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information when she used private e-mail as secretary of state is her biggest vulnerability among eight items tested in the poll. More than half of likely voters with no more than a high-school degree, 54 percent, say they are bothered a lot by that finding.
Other lines of attack against Clinton that focused on the Benghazi attack, the growth of the Islamic State, and Clinton’s Wall Street speeches, tested nearly as high.
For Trump, the most troubling vulnerability of eight tested among no-college voters was his verbal treatment of women, including calling them names like “pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “bimbo.” More than half, 56 percent, say they’re bothered a lot by that. About half say the same about Trump University lawsuits, Trump’s tax plan, and white supremacists’ support for the Republican.
Only about a third of white voters with no college approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared to 60 percent who disapprove. Obama is viewed unfavorably by 62 percent and favorably by 36 percent of white voters with no college. Among non-white voters with no more than a high-school degree, 79 percent approve of Obama’s job performance and 87 percent see him favorably.
Alex Castellanos, the chairman of Purple Strategies, is working for 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 Politics polling and sees the results only when they are published.