To understand how American voters are being driven apart, look no further than two powerful demographic forces: gender and education.
Once, the political outlooks of white men without a college degree and white women with one were similar. In recent years, the groups, which represent about 40% of voters, have moved sharply apart. Analysis of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows the division to be at its widest since the poll began measuring it in 1994.
The gap is something new in American politics, and it has fundamentally changed how campaigns are waged. Once, white voters as a whole were “persuadable’’—they might have leaned toward one party or the other, but no big bloc within the group was out of reach. Today, as the chart below shows, a campaign for Congress in many places starts with 60% of college-educated white women favoring the Democratic nominee. An even larger share of white men without degrees favor the Republican—making both essentially unreachable by the opposing candidate.
Among the women, the share who want Democrats to lead the next Congress is 33 percentage points larger than the share favoring GOP control. The men, by contrast, favor Republicans by a net 42 points.