White college graduates don’t like Donald Trump, and that’s a big reason why he’s likely doomed to lose.
You probably think it’s a waste of time to pay attention to the oscillating polls (I generally agree), and you’re probably wondering why I’ve singled out white college grads (more specifically, whites with four-year degrees). Here’s why: Trump’s horrific performance with white grads – a consistently growing segment of the electorate – has been a staple of the general election polls since early spring; and, more importantly, his performance with white grads is the worst of any Republican in more than 60 years.
It’s actually worse than that.
Republican nominees have won the white college graduates in every election since the numbers-crunchers began keeping score in 1952. Yes, every election. Dwight Eisenhower set the pace in 1956, winning the white grads by 40 points. Even Barry Goldwater, despite losing to LBJ in the ’64 landslide, managed to carry the white grads. Mitt Romney was a typical beneficiary four years ago; even though he lost to President Obama, he won the white grads by 12 points.
But right now – and consistently since May – Donald Trump is losing them. This is history in the making.
We’re well aware that Trump is getting hammered in the polls by African-Americans (he’s drawing roughly one percent) and by Hispanics (roughly 12 percent), for the reasons we know all too well. But rest assured that if Trump flunks with white grads, he is irredeemiably toast.
What we’re seeing, in this unique race, is a glaring class and education divide. Trump continues to wow the blue-collar white folks who lack four-year degrees – but there arent nearly enough of them to win a general election. Their share of the electorate is shrinking. The white college grad share is ever-rising.
Republican nominees have long viewed the white grads as vital to their winning coalition, but the stats that have been posted since the two party conventions are brutal. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll, released yesterday, shows Trump losing white grads to Hillary Clinton by six points; the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll puts his deficit at seven points; the latest CNN/ORC poll puts his deficit at 10 points.
This historic deficit is being driven by the white female grads. Trump has a tepid edge among white male grads – single digits, according to ABC-WashPo – but the white women are burying him by nearly 20 points. This helps to explain why Trump is potentially on the ropes in pivotal Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado. This helps to explain why he’s underperforming even in traditionally red Georgia. College-educated whites in those states’ populous suburbs, especially women, cannot abide the guy.
The reasons should be obvious by now. It’s no mystery why the Clinton campaign has been running a TV ad that shows little kids watching clips of Trump’s most odious behavior; and another ad that features a white suburban couple complaining about Trump’s caught-on-camera mockery of a disabled reporter.
College-educated whites, who told pollsters that Trump’s acceptance speech made them less likely to support him, are cool to his cultural and racial rhetoric. They have also generally fared better in the global economy than less-educated working-class whites (in other words, the white grads aren’t as viscerally angry). And, just as importantly, the white grads are likely to be high-information voters who pay close attention to the news.
Which means – and I’m trying to say this delicately – that people with college degrees are arguably more likely than their less-educated counterparts to assess Trump’s qualifications (or lack thereof) on the basis of what he says (its veracity or lack thereof) and how he says it.
Let’s face it, any candidate who talks like Trump is destined to do badly with white college grads. People with four-year degrees tend not to prize wild inarticulation. Here’s a primary season sample – Trump, talking verbatim about America’s nuclear policy. Or at least he started that way:
Look, having nuclear – my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart – you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world – it’s true! – but when you’re a conservative Republican they try – oh, do they do a number – that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune – you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged – but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me – it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is so powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right – who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners – now it used to be three, now it’s four – but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years – but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.
Even the McCain-Palin ticket won the white college grads. But Trump is Palin on steroids, and if he coughs up that traditional Republican constituency, his humiliation is guaranteed.