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How Whites Without a College Degree See the World Differently than Those With a Degree

Yesterday I discussed the changing composition of the Republican and Democratic parties here. That change profoundly influenced the result of the 2016 Presidential Election and provides an important consideration for Democrats as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections.

The research that I outlined yesterday shows that over the last 20 years the Republican party has gotten older, remains primarily white and now contains many more individuals without a college education than the Democrats. The last point is especially important because two-thirds of all voters don't have a college degree. In 2016 whites without a college education supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 39 points and it proved to be his margin of victory in states like Michigan which were thought to be in her corner. But why? Do whites without a college education see America differently than those with a college education? How did Donald Trump capture this important demographic group? What issues are pushing these voters away from the Democratic Party and how do they win them back in 2018?

Even prior to the election in 2016 researchers at Brookings found the answers in a study conducted by Jones, Robert P., Betsy Cooper, Daniel Cox, E.J. Dionne Jr., William A. Galston, and Rachel Lienesch titled “How Immigration and Concerns about Cultural Change Are Shaping the 2016 Election.

Their study demonstrated that yes, there are substantial differences in how the two groups see the world. William Galston explained their results in a separate piece like this [I've added the numbering]:

1. ..." 54 percent of college-educated whites think that America’s culture and way of life have improved since the 1950s; 62 percent of white working-class Americans think that it has changed for the worse.

2. Sixty-eight percent of working-class whites, but only 47 percent of college-educated whites, believe that the American way of life needs to be protected against foreign influences.

3. Sixty-six percent of working-class whites, but only 43 percent of college-educated whites, say that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

4. In a similar vein, 62 percent of working-class whites believe that discrimination against Christians has become as big a problem as discrimination against other groups, a proposition only 38 percent of college educated whites endorse.

5. ... By a margin of 52 to 35 percent, college-educated whites affirm that today’s immigrants strengthen our country through their talent and hard work. Conversely, 61 percent of white working-class voters say that immigrants weaken us by taking jobs, housing, and health care.

6. Seventy-one percent of working-class whites think that immigrants mostly hurt the economy by driving down wages, a belief endorsed by only 44 percent of college-educated whites.

7. Fifty-nine percent of working-class whites believe that we should make a serious effort to deport all illegal immigrants back to their home countries; only 33 percent of college-educated whites agree.

8. Fifty-five percent of working-class whites think we should build a wall along our border with Mexico, while 61 percent of whites with BAs or more think we should not.

9. Majorities of working-class whites believe that we should make the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States illegal and temporarily ban the entrance of non-American Muslims into our country; about two-thirds of college-educated whites oppose each of these proposals.

10. ... By a narrow margin of 48 to 46 percent, college-educated whites endorse the view that trade agreements are mostly helpful to the United States because they open up overseas markets while 62 percent of working-class whites believe that they are harmful because they send jobs overseas and drive down wages."

Simply stated, these issues define an "economic insecurity" that Donald Trump spoke to in 2016. But with these results you also see the elements that drive the "alt-right". The challenge for Democrats in 2018 is how to win back enough of these voters without compromising their key values, without stoking the us vs. them mentality that defines President Trump's message.


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