College-educated voters will back Clinton, according to survey

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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Jones | Daily Texan Staff

The divide in voter preference is growing between those with and without a college education, according to a survey performed by the Pew Research Center. 

The survey, which was conducted in August, finds registered voters with a college degree favor Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by 23 percent. Voters without a college degree favored Trump over Clinton by 5 percent.

Robert Suls, research associate at the Pew Research Center, said in his analysis of the survey that if the gap between college-educated and non-college-educated voters holds until November, it will be the widest educational divide in any election in recent history. Suls said the gap is exceptionally pronounced among college-educated and non-college-educated white voters.  

UT government professor Daron Shaw said, historically, higher levels of education correlate with supporting Republican candidates until post-graduate levels of education, where the trend reverses.

According to Suls’ analysis, since 1992, the difference in voter preference between college-educated voters and non-college-educated voters has been minuscule. In the 2012 election, college degree-holders favored Democratic nominee Barack Obama by 2 percentage points over Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Obama was favored by 4 percentage points over Romney among non-college-educated voters, according to Suls’ analysis.

Sergio Cavazos, Senate of College Councils president, said when looking at the divide, you need to take into account multiple factors, such as economic background.

“Maybe people who aren’t doing as well financially, who may not have an education, think Donald Trump is an alternative to the political establishment,” said Cavazos, a government senior. “People who are voting for Hillary Clinton, who have higher education specifically, may not see this [as] practical.”

According to national exit polling data compiled by Pew Research Center and averaged by NPR, white, college-educated voters historically have favored Republicans. In 2012, Obama lost the college-educated white vote to Romney by 14 percentage points. 

Suls’ analysis confirms that college-educated white voters have favored Republican candidates over the years but indicates 2016 will mark the first time in at least a quarter of a century that this group has supported a Democratic candidate.

“In 2016, the broad relationship between greater education and greater GOP support has come undone as Trump’s appeal on trade and immigration, as well as his expression of disdain for elites and the “rigged” system, has mobilized less well educated whites at the expense of traditional, businessman Republicans,” Shaw said in an email. 

The survey also showed highly educated voters to have more liberal views than those who were less educated. According to a Pew Research analysis taken in April, 48 percent of college graduates consistently hold liberal views on political issues while 8 percent of non-college-educated voters held consistently liberal views. 

“On some high-profile economic and social issues, college educated voters are liberal,” Shaw said in an email. “For example, the environment or gay marriage. But on other issues this tendency is not very great. For example, free trade, deficit reduction and education reform.“

University Democrats president Ashley Alcantara said she believes part of the reason why college-educated voters are more likely to vote Democratic stems from the diverse learning environment they’re exposed to as students.

“The Democratic Party should also be connecting with groups that don’t necessarily have college degrees, so that’s something the party should also discuss going forward,” said Alcantara, a government and Plan II senior. 

College Republicans did not return requests for comment on this story.