For White Voters, It Was Education, Stupid

Nate Silver focuses on education’s impact on the result of the election, and on polling error.

The first conclusion: Education was almost everything in explaining the results of the race. Donald Trump substantially improved on Mitt Romney’s performance among voters without college degrees — especially white voters without college degrees. Hillary Clinton somewhat improved on President Obama’s performance with college-educated voters. The link between education levels and the shift in the vote is robust, even when controlling for other factors, such as income levels.

As the bottom of those links says:

First, it’s clear from the exit polls that for white voters, every bit of extra education meant less support for Trump. That is, it wasn’t just a matter of attending college or getting a degree. While much has been made of the college and non-college divide (which is stark), Trump actually won whites who earned only a bachelor’s degree by a fairly wide margin. Just as big a gap was between the votes of those who graduated from college and those who went to graduate school. The latter group supported Clinton in much larger numbers.

And, with respect to polling, going back to the top linked and quoted post:

In the 10 states with the largest share of white voters without college degrees, Trump beat his polling average by an average of 8 percentage points — a major polling miss. But in the 10 states with the lowest share of white voters without college degrees, Clinton beat her polls by an average of 3 points (or 4 points if you count the District of Columbia as a state). Overall, the correlation between the share of white non-college voters in a state and the amount by which Trump overperformed (or underperformed) his polls is quite high.

Following a complex regression, Nate concluded:

The share of non-college white voters was still a highly statistically significant predictor of the polling error, although Romney’s performance in 2012 was too.

Nate concludes that to reduce the reduce the error caused by likely under sampling of less educated voters:

But most pollsters apply demographic weighting by race, age and gender to try to compensate for this problem. It’s less common (although by no means unheard of) to weight by education, however. As education levels increasingly cleave voters from one another, more pollsters may need to consider weighting their samples accordingly.

I am unable to resist the point that if it turned out that more educated non-white voters voted more like white voters in general, surely some commentators would be advocating for limiting the franchise for non-whites to those with with more education.