Presidential Politics and Going to College!

Dear Commons Community,

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, and the author of the book The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics,  has an opinion piece in today’s New York Times.  He examines comments/positions of President Barack Obama and Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as an introduction to how college-educated Americans might be voting in November.  Here is a sample.

“President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob,” Santorum told a Tea Party meeting in Troy, Mich., on Feb. 25. “I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”

Romney, the all-but-certain nominee, was blunt when speaking in March at a metal assembly plant in Youngstown, Ohio: “It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that.”

There is a partisan logic to the Republican hostility to higher education: the well-educated — a reliable source of conservative support as recently as the 1980s — have been moving steadily toward the Democratic Party. In a head-to-head contest, a March 26 McClatchy-Marist Poll shows Romney ahead of Obama 47-42 among those without college degrees, while Obama leads Romney 51-42 among those with them. Similarly, those without college degrees lean toward voting for Republican congressional candidates 49-40, while those with them lean toward Democrats 46-44.

Edsall’s findings are interesting particularly in light of the shifts among educated Americans in their voting preferences.

“In 1984, those with college and advanced degrees made up 35.3 percent of the electorate. Reagan’s strongest margins were among the college educated, who backed him over Walter F. Mondale by a crushing 62.7-36.9 margin. Among all those with both college and advanced degrees, Reagan won 58.7 percent, a landslide margin.

Jump to 2008. Even though those with college degrees made up 27.9 percent of the population that year, they cast 45 percent of the presidential vote. These voters register and go to the polls in substantially higher numbers than the less well educated.

By 2008, the Republican advantage of the early 1980s among voters with a college degree or higher had disappeared. Barack Obama carried this demographic with 54.1 percent. He beat McCain 50-48 among those with bachelor’s degrees, and by a decisive 58-40 among the 17 percent of the 2008 electorate with post-graduate degrees.”

While voters are typically a fickle lot,  for the present, it appears that the more educated lean to Obama and the Democrats.





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