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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Frey: How Educated White Women May Offset Trump’s White Working-Class Support

At Brookings William Frey has an analysis that will should add to the RNC’s woes quite considerably. Frey writes,

Much has been written about white working-class men this political cycle because they represent the voting base on which Republican candidate Donald Trump largely depends. Yet recent polling suggests that another demographic segment – white college-educated women – could be his Achilles heel. I have calculated just how many votes it would cost him if white college-educated women vote the way they have stated they will in recent polls. If the polls are accurate, even a supersized turnout of working-class white men would not be nearly enough for Trump to win the election.

…This year’s election could be historic by making white college-educated women a lynchpin of a decisive Democratic win – an unintended consequence of Trump’s full-throated old-style male bravado, as a contrast to Clinton’s more inclusive messages. These women not only favor the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, but do so decisively – a shift that occurred just after both parties’ conventions took place. The difference is tallied in ABC/Washington Post polls of registered voters for mid-July and early August, as shown in Figure 1. Before the conventions, Clinton held a slight edge over Trump, 45 percent versus 42 percent among white college-graduate women, but her advantage widened sharply to 57 percent versus 38 percent after the conventions.

Frey presents charts that provide a striking visual demonstration of Clinton’s post-convention gains with the white women college graduate constituency, with little variation among other constituencies between pre and post-convention polls. Frey uses a simulation exercize “show how many votes Clinton and Trump would receive from these different groups,” using 2012 turnout rates with Current Population Survey reports and the polling data in the charts and calculates that Clinton would pick up an additional 5 million votes for her election tally, securing a 10 million vote margin in the popular vote. Frey explains,

The main reason for this difference is the outsized contribution to Clinton of 4 million net votes from white college-graduate women. This is a rise from the 659,000 net gain for Clinton that this group contributed under the pre-convention polling scenario. It makes the difference between a solid Democratic win and a near landslide win. Throughout the nation’s history only four previous presidential candidates (Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt) showed winning margins that exceeded 10 million votes.

Frey performs another simulation exercize in which white non-college men turn out to vote in percentages  matching that of white college-educated men, a generous 79 percent turnout rate, translating into an 16 million increase in this constituency over 2012.

“Yet even with the assumption of extreme white working-class male turnout,” writes Frey, “the election results in a 5 million vote win for Clinton. This indicates that if Clinton can sustain the support of white educated women shown in recent polls, she can overcome supersized turnout of white working-class men.” Frey acknowledges that a lot could change in the months ahead. He concludes, however, that

…The division between the voting patterns of white-working-class and racial-minority voters will probably be larger than in the past. But recent polls suggest that there could be a new demographic divide within the white population with white college-educated women turning into a meaningful Democratic bloc. If this split within the white population persists until Election Day, it could result in a landslide win for Clinton over Trump.

Despite all of the complications that could arise over the next 90 days, Frey’s scenarios are not so  implausible if Clinton can hold steady her electoral popular vote coalition. And while many pundits are predicting a Clinton victory in November, the word “landslide” in Frey’s analysis should have GOP down-ballot candidiates in swing states and districts more than a little worried.

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