Education and Party Identity

I have pointed out several times since the 2008 election, such as here, that the move by educated (and affluent) voters to the Democratic Party was a major reason why Barack Obama won. During 2008 both Hillary Clinton and John McCain embraced anti-intellectualism and went down to defeat as their charges of elitism failed to take hold. A majority of educated voters agreed with Jon Stewart that elitism in government leaders is good, and understood when he said, “not only do I want an elite president, but I want someone who is embarrassingly superior to me.”

The Cook Political Report has found that education has become the most significant predictor of party identity. The actual report is available only to subscribers but Taegan Goddard has a summary:

The Cook Political Report mines voting and census data and finds that “in the past decade, the most significant predictor of a county’s shift in partisan preference has not been existing partisanship, or even income. It is level of educational attainment. Democrats have gained ground in places where those with at least a bachelor’s degree comprise high shares of the electorate, and have seen their fortunes fade elsewhere.”

The trend line in the nation’s 3114 counties: “Each year, the Democratic candidate performed progressively better as shares of degree-holders rose.”

It  should come as no surprise that most educated voters have moved towards the Democratic Party considering the increasing anti-intellectualism in the GOP. As Republicans  lost the battle of ideas, they lost the support of educated voters.

Contrary to the common stereotype, most educated voters would not prefer to have a beer with George Bush, and even if they did have learned better than to actually vote for someone like him. This also means that Republicans are committing suicide if they should nominate Sarah Palin.

Most educated voters are also repelled by the hatred and ignorance which spew from people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Couluter.

Most educated voters will not vote for a political party which contains members who believe in creationism, and is not willing to laugh any and all creationists out of the party. Anyone who believes in creationism is not capable of reaching a rational decision in the 21st century, period.

Most educated voters might wish that global warming wasn’t true, but deep down are smart enough to know that just because you wish it doesn’t mean you can ignore virtually every scientist in the field. Pretending that a handful of weathermen who dissent from the scientific consensus are qualified climatologists doesn’t make the Republicans look any smarter.

Most educated people have become wary of anyone who claims the Iraq war was justified, especially if they believe that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 or that we were really threatened by WMD. Using made up words like Islamo-Fascism doesn’t help Republicans with educated voters either. (Even Frank Luntz realizes this.)

Most educated voters have figured out that Fox News is neither fair nor balanced, and that those who claim that every outlet of the mainstream media shows liberal bias are themselves a bit unbalanced.

The Republicans have degenerated into a party lacking in ideas which substitutes McCarthyist attacks for rational political debate. This worked for a brief time, aided by fear of terrorism after 9/11, but is not enough to sustain a political party which has repeatedly shown itself incapable of governing.

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  1. 1
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    Sure, because those who attend college get “re-educated” into the Socialist/Fascist beliefs of the Democrats.  Where’s the surprise there?

    And what of Libertarians?  What did this survey say of the education level of those of us who support Liberty? 

    Remember the Republican Party is made up of two wings: Libertarian and Conservative.  To imply that Republicans are all a bunch of dumb uneducated hicks, cause you only survey the Conservative wing, and ignore Libertarians is downright disingenuous. 

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    No, those who attend college learn about real facts, as opposed to regurgitating the right wing talking points. Those who attend college also learn how to analyze information and think for themselves. These are skills you really would benefit from.

    The libertarian wing of the Republican Party barely exists anymore (and you certainly are not a member) so this would not have any significant bearing on the results.

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