Graph depicting Democratic Lead by Education Level in 2012 and 2016 (Trump v. Clinton)
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Description: The green bars represent the margin of Obama's victory over Romney in 2012 for non-college graduates and college graduates. The orange bars indicate the margin Clinton has over Trump in the polls among non-graduates and graduates.

Sources: CNN 2012 exit polls   Quinnipiac Poll 3/23

Data: Excel

Last updated: March 26, 2016


The Level of Education of a Voter Is Becoming a Strong Determinant of how They Vote (Trump v. Clinton)

Discussion: In recent elections, the Democratic candidate has typically won the voters with postgraduate degrees by a significant margin, but voters with college degrees, but not postgraduate degrees, have been more evenly divided. On the other hand, voters with more limited educations have tended to vote Democratic. Part of the reason for this dynamic is that wealth has tended to make voters more likely to vote Republican and wealth tends to correlate to education. You can see a more detailed discussion of that relationship here.

In 2012, President Obama beat Romney by 4 points among voters without college degrees and 2 points among voters with college degrees. President Obama's victory among voters with college degrees was driven by his 13 point margin of victory among those voters with college degrees who also had postgraduate degrees.

If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the polls suggest that large numbers of voters would switch parties, at least for the 2016 presidential election, based on their level of education. Donald Trump is leading Hillary Clinton by 2 points among voters who lack a college degree. That is a 6 point improvement among that group for Mr. Trump. On the other side of the equation, Clinton is leading Trump by and astounding 27 points among voters with college degrees. That is an 25 point improvement for Ms. Clinton among that group.

This is consistent with the way Donald Trump is performing in the primary. Among Republicans, Donald Trump draws overwhelming support from Republicans who lack a high school diploma, and then, the more education a Republican has, the more likely they are to be backing a different candidate in the primary. You can see more information about that, and how other demographic characteristics play into the Republican primary, here.

The last time PTW updated this graph, at the end of January, Clinton was beating Trump by 20 points among college-educated voters, so over the past two months, another 7% of voters with college degrees have switched from backing Trump to backing Clinton.

You can see the same comparison for Bernie Sanders here.

See more graphs about: Polls   Education  

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