Education Level Emerges as Sharp Dividing Line in Clinton-Trump Race
There are many demographic fault lines emerging in this year’s presidential campaign, but few are deeper than the division among likely voters based on educational attainment.
Those with the least number of years of education are far more likely to support Donald Trump, while those who have had the most schooling are much more likely to back Hillary Clinton, according to a Bloomberg Politics national poll released this week.
“The presence or absence of a college degree is more predictive of the vote in this election than we’ve seen in past elections,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversees many political surveys for Bloomberg Politics.
Another trend may also be developing in the campaign that could pose a threat to Clinton: apathy among potential voters under age 35.
Both of these subplots were revealed in the new poll, with educational level offering the starkest contrast.
Clinton wins the college-educated segment by 25 percentage points, 59 percent to 34 percent. Trump’s edge among those without a college education is 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent.
Trump’s lead is 4-to-1 among white men with less than a college degree, 76 percent to 19 percent. Clinton’s advantage with college-educated women is 64 percent to 31 percent.
That’s vastly different from what was recorded in the 2012 presidential election, when exit polling showed 47 percent of voters were college graduates. In that contest, President Barack Obama only narrowly beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney among college graduates, 50 percent to 48 percent.
It’s also different from the two presidential contests before that. In 2008, Obama won among both those who did and did not graduate college by almost identical margins over Senator John McCain of Arizona (53 percent to 45 percent, and 53 percent to 46 percent).
In 2004, President George W. Bush beat then-Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts among those with no college degree, 53 percent to 47 percent. Among those with college degrees, the two men tied at 49 percent.
The Bloomberg Politics poll also showed a sharp decline among those 18-34 years old who say they definitely plan to vote in November. When compared to a Bloomberg Politics survey taken in June, the number fell to 46 percent from 60 percent.
A Bloomberg survey taken in September 2012, roughly at this same point in the election cycle, showed 64 percent in that age group said they definitely planned to vote.
“Our data hints at a burst balloon of enthusiasm among younger voters,” Selzer said. “Among those who do intend to vote, a majority support Clinton, but more of them do so to stop Trump than to support Clinton.”
Selzer said she suspects the decline in younger voters saying that they definitely plan to vote is related to the June exit from the race by Clinton’s former nomination rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a candidate who excited more young adults than Clinton.
“One could see how those still feeling the loss from Bernie Sanders’ exit might opt out of voting altogether,” she said. “At least for now, it’s something to watch.”