Two days ago the New York Times published an article detailing how the 15 congressional districts where at least half of adults have at least a college degree are predominately represented by democrat representatives (13/2 split). With the Georgia special election, this may turn to a 14/1 split or remain at a 13/2 split. The article also provides a second chart comparing the republican presidential candidate performance in the same districts for the 2016 and 2012 elections.

While the correlation is striking, it does not provide a historical trend for those districts. Additionally, there are a number of related politics and skeptic stack exchange questions on this subject:

  1. Is educational attainment is correlated to political voting
  2. Do non educated people tend more to the right conservative political wing
  3. In the u s are people with more education more likely to vote liberal
  4. Does an increase in education causes an increase in the probability of voting

1. What historical evidence is there to suggest that higher educated voters statistically vote liberal/democratic.

Example: what's the historical trend for each of the 15 districts previously mentioned with respect to voting their district representative and/or electoral college vote?

2. What historical evidence is there to suggest that lower educated voters statistically vote conservative/republican.

In the interest of avoiding partisan arguments, please provide statistical evidence.

  • 4
    Remember that correlation does not imply causation. For example education may correlate to some other factor X, and it could be that factor X is the real cause for people to vote one way or the other. There are several other similar caveats. Untangling all of this and actually proving something in any empirical way is hard, though not completely impossible. Either way, none of the answers on the questions you link to really do any service to the complexity of the matter. – user11249 Jun 21 '17 at 17:25
  • Hence checking if there is a trend. If the trend does not exist, then searching for causation is moot. If the trend does exist, then it'll be worthwhile to check if there is a causation or external factors. – KareemElashmawy Jun 21 '17 at 17:27
  • Republican vs. Democrat is misleading in this case; it's better to look at the subtypes that make up those parties. "Education" section from "Red vs. Blue", PewResearch, is a good first step. – Nat Jun 22 '17 at 0:03

It has not always been the case that more educated voters tend to vote for Democrats. This really only started to be case in 1992 when Bill Clinton won his first Presidential election in a dramatic shift of educated voters from the Republican to the Democratic party (whose respective left-right leanings have been a moving target in the post-World War II political era).

For example, in the era of New York Governor and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and President Gerald Ford, in the 1960s and 1970s, educated voters decisively favored Republicans and the Republican party was much more moderate on social issues. (For what it is worth Gary Trudeau's comic strip Doonsbury provides a detailed contemporaneous social history of the process of this shift in the respective major political party's coalitions and policies in a very intimate way.)

The tendency of more educated votes to vote for Democrats is a relatively recent development that flows from the declining political salience of economic issues relative to cultural issues for many voters.

But, for evidence that it is real, consider, for example, an analysis of exit polls from the 2016 Presidential election prepared by the 538 blog. It begins:

Sometimes statistical analysis is tricky, and sometimes a finding just jumps off the page. Here’s one example of the latter.

I took a list of all 981 U.S. counties with 50,000 or more people and sorted it by the share of the population that had completed at least a four-year college degree. Hillary Clinton improved on President Obama’s 2012 performance in 48 of the country’s 50 most-well-educated counties. And on average, she improved on Obama’s margin of victory in these countries by almost 9 percentage points, even though Obama had done pretty well in them to begin with.

It continues, much later on, to state with regard to the least-well-educated counties:

Clinton lost ground relative to Obama in 47 of the 50 counties — she did an average of 11 percentage points worse, in fact. These are really the places that won Donald Trump the presidency, especially given that a fair number of them are in swing states such as Ohio and North Carolina. He improved on Mitt Romney’s margin by more than 30 points (!) in Ashtabula County, Ohio, for example, an industrial county along Lake Erie that hadn’t voted Republican since 1984.

Further analysis rejects the hypothesis that income rather than education is involved. The implication of this fact is that the political identity of voters in 2016 and other recent elections where education has been a more important factor than income in predicting electoral preferences is more more cultural than economic.

The Pew Research Center tracks the trend back to 1980:enter image description here

As the chart shows, the really decisive shift in the partisan leanings of college educated voters took place between 1988 Presidential election (won by George Herbert Walker Bush) and 1992 (won by Bill Clinton) and has changed only modestly since then.

  • The plots above make it look like the voting gap's been pretty small, or even negative, up 'til this most recent election. Trump won hard with less-educated whites. – Nat Jun 22 '17 at 3:36

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