Graph depicting Democratic Lead by Education Level in 2012 and 2016 (Trump v. Sanders)
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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 Sanders has over Trump in the polls among non-graduates and graduates. The orange bar shows the percentage of decided voters.

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. Sanders)

Discussion: Bernie Sanders is set to win more than one in four college-Educated Romney voters.

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. Bernie Sanders would be Trump by almost 9% among voters without college degrees. That is a 5 point improvement among that group for Senator Sanders. On the other side of the equation, Sanders is leading Trump by and astounding 29 points among voters with college degrees. That is a 27 point improvement for Mr. Sanders 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, Sanders was beating Trump by 26 points among college-educated voters, so over the past two months, another 3% of voters with college degrees have switched from backing Trump to backing Sanders.

You can see the same comparison for Hillary Clinton here.

See more graphs about: Polls   Education  

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