In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.
Doug Sosnik at NYT:
The impact of education on voting has an economic as well as a cultural component. The confluence of rising globalization, technological developments and the offshoring of many working-class jobs led to a sorting of economic fortunes, a widening gap in the average real wealth between households led by college graduates compared with the rest of the population, whose levels are near all-time lows.
According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, since 1989, families headed by college graduates have increased their wealth by 83 percent. For households headed by someone without a college degree, there was relatively little or no increase in wealth.
Culturally, a person’s educational attainment increasingly correlates with their views on a wide range of issues like abortion, attitudes about L.G.B.T.Q. rights and the relationship between government and organized religion. It also extends to cultural consumption (movies, TV, books), social media choices and the sources of information that shape voters’ understanding of facts.
This is not unique to the United States; the pattern has developed across nearly all Western democracies. Going back to the 2016 Brexit vote and the most recent national elections in Britain and France, education level was the best predictor of how people voted.
This new class-based politics oriented around the education divide could turn out to be just as toxic as race-based politics. It has facilitated a sorting of America into enclaves of like-minded people who look at members of the other enclave with increasing contempt.
The diploma divide really started to emerge in voting in the early 1990s, and Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 solidified this political realignment. Since then, the trends have deepened.
In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden defeated Mr. Trump by assembling a coalition different from the one that elected and re-elected Barack Obama. Of the 206 counties that Mr. Obama carried in 2008 and 2012 that were won by Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Biden won back only 25 of these areas, which generally had a higher percentage of non-college-educated voters. But overall Mr. Biden carried college-educated voters by 15 points.
In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats carried white voters with a college degree by three points, while Republicans won white non-college voters by 34 points (a 10-point improvement from 2018).
This has helped establish a new political geography. There are now 42 states firmly controlled by one party or the other. And with 45 out of 50 states voting for the same party in the last two presidential elections, the only states that voted for the winning presidential candidates in both 2016 and 2020 rank roughly in the middle on educational levels — Pennsylvania (23rd in education attainment), Georgia (24th), Wisconsin (26th), Arizona (30th) and Michigan (32nd).
In 2020, Mr. Biden received 306 electoral votes, Mr. Trump, 232. In the reapportionment process — which readjusts the Electoral College counts based on the most current census data — the new presidential electoral map is more favorable to Republicans by a net six points.