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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Education and the Election

Nate Silver writes:
I took a list of all 981 U.S. counties1 with 50,000 or more people2 and sorted it by the share of the population3 that had completed at least a four-year college degree. Hillary Clinton improved on President Obama’s 2012 performance in 48 of the country’s 50 most-well-educated counties. And on average, she improved on Obama’s margin of victory in these countries by almost 9 percentage points, even though Obama had done pretty well in them to begin with.
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Now here’s the opposite list: The 50 counties (minimum population of 50,000) where the smallest share of the population has bachelor’s degrees:
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These results are every bit as striking: Clinton lost ground relative to Obama in 47 of the 50 counties — she did an average of 11 percentage points worse, in fact. These are really the places that won Donald Trump the presidency, especially given that a fair number of them are in swing states such as Ohio and North Carolina. He improved on Mitt Romney’s margin by more than 30 points (!) in Ashtabula County, Ohio, for example, an industrial countyalong Lake Erie that hadn’t voted Republican since 1984.
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In short, it appears as though educational levels are the critical factor in predicting shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016. You can come to that conclusion with a relatively simple analysis, like the one I’ve conducted above, or by using fancier methods. In a regression analysis at the county level, for instance, lower-income counties were no more likely to shift to Trump once you control for education levels.11 And although there’s more work to be done, these conclusions also appear to hold if you examine the data at a more granular level, like by precinct or among individual voters in panel surveys.