A recent report from the Pew Research Center supports the conclusion that “Americans are pursuing higher education at growing rates, but those without a college education are increasingly finding a home in the GOP.” The data are summarized in this report by the New York Times: As Americans become more educated, the GOP is moving in the opposite direction. (h/t Jana Eaton)
There are two basic facts to know.
Fact #1: More Americans are earning college degrees
According to Census Bureau data, more Americans have a college degree now than they did a year ago — the highest number ever measured by the Census.
More than a third of American adults have a four-year college degree or higher, the highest level ever measured by the Census Bureau. In 2010, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“The percentage rose to 33.4 percent in 2016, a significant milestone since the Current Population Survey began collecting educational attainment in 1940,” said Kurt Bauman, chief of the bureau’s education and social stratification branch. “In 1940, only 4.6 percent had reached that level of education.”
Fact #2: More than ever, those with college degrees are Democrats, those without are Republicans
"In 1994, 39% of those with a four-year college degree (no postgraduate experience) identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and 54% associated with the Republican Party. In 2017, those figures were exactly reversed.”
More than half of registered voters who identify as Democrat have a bachelor’s degree, while fewer than 4 in 10 registered voters who identify as Republican have a bachelor’s degree.
Those with graduate degrees are even more likely to find their political home in the Democratic Party, according to the survey:
“In 1994, those with at least some postgraduate experience were evenly split between the Democratic and Republican parties. Today, the Democratic Party enjoys a roughly two-to-one advantage in leaned partisan identification. While some of this shift took place a decade ago, postgraduate voters’ affiliation with and leaning to the Democratic Party have grown substantially just over the past few years, from 55% in 2015 to 63% in 2017.”
The Times report draws another conclusion. “[All] This may not bode well for the GOP long-term as the American public becomes increasingly educated.”
… this could be bad news for the GOP long-term as the demographics of the country and the electorate will increasingly look less like their party. It could be increasingly difficult to win sizable numbers of support — and thus elections — from more educated Americans in the future. In recent elections in Virginia, Alabama and elsewhere, the GOP won the white, working-class vote — but, ultimately, the party lost.