“In over a half-century, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried white voters with a college degree,” said Michelle Diggles, a senior political analyst with the center-left think tank Third Way, who described the split between the white working class and whites with a college degree as “the most underreported story of this year.”
GOP nominee Donald Trump is hoping that white working-class voters can fuel his own victory. But his climb becomes doubly harder as he is far behind Clinton in the demographic bloc that is usually reliably Republican.
In the last presidential election, Barack Obama lost the college-educated white voters by 14 points. But now Clinton is winning this same group by about 8.7 points, according to an average of the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal, CNN/ORC and ABC/Washington Post polls.
“In the past, many college graduates, white people that were business managers or had various kinds of middle-class jobs, would vote Republican — and that group may be taking a second look at the Democratic Party,” said Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
NPR only had access to exit polls dating to 1988, but with the help of the Pew Research Center, we were able to identify the education/class divide and explore the Republican dominance over time.
Why are we seeing a shift now?
“It seems that Donald Trump is a uniquely polarizing figure amongst white voters,” Diggles observed. “There are a lot of voters who are concerned that Donald Trump is … just so outside of the mainstream and so outside the American political culture that they can’t fathom it.”
She pointed to Trump’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his “anti-democratic” rhetoric, and his threats to the freedom of the press.
The outspoken billionaire’s immigration policy — which includes mass deportations and plans to build a wall between Mexico and …