College degrees divide Washington’s voters

That’s a loaded question, and the answer offered in this post won’t cover all the bases, and certainly isn’t definitive.

This post focuses on a Seattle Times article (read it here) that’s based on the results of an Elway poll of Washington voters and another one funded by a wealthy conservative.

Answer: College degrees.

The 45% of Washington voters with degrees, and those without degrees, break sharply along partisan lines, those and other recent surveys have found. The Seattle Times article cites a political scientist who says “this diploma divide is the main force fundamentally re-sorting the political parties.” He observes that the Democrats “are shedding noncollege voters in droves.”

It does make logical sense. I’ve argued (here) that college teaches people how to think; and, “The whole point of thinking is to figure things out correctly, come up with the right answers, and solve problems.” Republicans, who are notoriously resistant to facts, science, and logical reasoning, are more likely to vote based on feeling (which often are influenced by propaganda), e.g. frustration or anger, and to support ideas and policies that are just plain wrong (e.g. their pandemic response).

The Elway poll, conducted in early July 2022 (view it here), “found that 75% of college-educated voters here now hold negative views of the GOP — most of them deeply so.” That’s not too surprising, given that GOP policies (e.g. on climate change) tend to be counterproductive. Better educated voters also are less likely to tolerate racism and bigotry, violence and threats, and anti-democratic behavior — all Trumpism hallmarks.

The other poll of Washington voters, conducted in mid-August 2022 (view it here), revealed that Trump leads by 5 points among noncollege voters, while Biden has a 37-point lead among college-educated voters. That poll also shows only 14% of all college-educated voters, and 10% of women with degrees, identify as Republicans, while 55% of college-educated women voters identify as Democrats.

It’s not quite that simple, though; given that noncollege voters outnumber college voters by 55%-45%, on paper Washington ought to be a red state. But it’s solidly blue; the statewide Republican vote rarely exceeds 43%, and some of those GOP voters are college-educated, so clearly a significant number of noncollege voters are voting for Democrats. Unions probably account for some of that vote, and also minority voters.

Moreover, I think education probably is more predictive than a cause of these numbers. Issues obviously matter. Not only is overturning Roe v. Wade driving more women voters to the Democrats, but the Supreme Court is “bulldozing the modern cultural landscape.” Educated voters also are more likely to be “moved” by social issues in general and “science-based concerns like pandemics or climate change,” while being “less sensitive to economic problems” like housing affordability, gas prices, and inflation.

This doesn’t mean everything will come up roses for Democrats. They have an empathy problem. As the Seattle Times article says, “An academic ‘we know best’ sense often breezes from Democratic politicians, which may be pushing some working-class voters — including an increasing share of minority voters — into the arms of Republicans.” Nobody likes being talked down to, and I think some of today’s Republican anger is a reaction to that. I also think they’re upset with “experts” and “smart people” who’ve made mistakes at their expense. On the other hand, how do you tell someone they’re wrong when they are, but refuse to listen?

I fished one final tidbit out of the Seattle Times article. It says the mid-August poll shows Sen. Patty Murray leading challenger Tiffany Smiley by 49% to 43%. Earlier today I penned a post (read it here) that explored whether Smiley can get more than 43% of the vote. Only one of Murray’s last four opponents did so, and the GOP’s 2020 governor nominee hit a ceiling at 43%, too (although he was a weak candidate). I’ve been aware of this ceiling for years, but before reading the Seattle Times article, I didn’t know that Washington party affiliation breaks so cleanly along degree-no degree lines as it apparently does. However, as I’ve argued here, there are other factors and influences at work, too.

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