New Rankings of the Most Educated States & How Education Impacts American Politics
There are many factors that influence the political culture of a state such as race, religion and history. For instance, discovering why Alabama is so reliably conservative and Vermont so progressive is complex, involving numerous cultural and demographic differences. But, today there is a new voter characteristic that can help you more accurately predict the political leanings of a state; the educational attainment of its residents.
Based on recent research, you could posit that progressive states like Vermont generally have higher levels of educational attainment. That trait alone isn't enough to completely explain the blue state/red state divide in America, but it's a good start.
In a new study conducted for WalletHub, researchers examined a number of factors necessary for a well-educated population such as educational attainment and school quality.
On educational attainment alone [the percentage of residents who have college or graduate degrees, for instance], here are the top 10: 1. Massachusetts 2. Colorado 3. Maryland 4. Connecticut 5. Vermont 6. New Hampshire 7. Virginia 8. Minnesota 9. Washington State 10. New Jersey. They are all quite progressive and all of them voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, most by large margins.
The bottom ten states are: 41. Tennessee 42. Oklahoma 43. Texas 44. Nevada 45. Alabama 46. Kentucky 47. Arkansas 48. Louisiana 49. Mississippi 50. West Virginia. Each of them, except Nevada, voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Outliers are a bit more common once you get away from the extremes; New Mexico [Clinton] was 38th, while Kansas [Trump] was 13th, so clearly there are other factors involved as well. Still, educational attainment is becoming a compelling predictor of a state's political culture.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight broke it down even further, to the city and county level, after the 2016 election to examine the relationship between education and voting patterns. He found that Donald Trump did much better in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012 in the 50 least-educated counties, and that Hillary Clinton did even better than former President Obama in the 50 most-educated counties. And, he notes that the pattern seems to follow even down to the precinct level.
Nate Silver: In short, it appears as though educational levels are the critical factor in predicting shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016.
And, the trend continued into 2018. Pew Research examined voter identification in 2018 and found a growing education gap of more than 20 percentage points.
Pew Research: "Voters who have completed college make up a third of all registered voters. And a majority of all voters with at least a four-year college degree (58%) now identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, the highest share dating back to 1992. Just 36% affiliate with the Republican Party or lean toward the GOP."
Why are college educated voters abandoning the Republican Party? Donald Trump is the easy answer, and certainly he hasn't helped draw educated voters into the party, but the trend predates his presidency. Although more research is needed, there are a number of explanations, and we will tackle them in an article next week.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content