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New Democracy Corps Analysis Shows Bush Suffering Major Loss of Support Among College-Educated Men

An important new analysis by Stan Greenberg and Anna Greenberg draws attention to a critical problem facing George Bush – a startling loss of support among college-educated men. These voters, once “paid-up members in Karl Rove’s “Republican Base” have defected in large numbers to John Kerry.

The October 27th analysis by Democracy Corps examines the latest data on the patterns of Bush and Kerry support among both men and women and among both non-college and college voters.

Here are some highlights from the analysis, focusing on the changing attitudes of college-educated men. Make sure you read the full-text of the memo at the D-Corps site. It’s got lots of important additional information and data that can help guide Democratic strategy in the coming days.

The coverage of the election has mostly missed the real story....

The big change is Bush’s underperformance with men. His margin has slipped 9 points. [In 2000, Bush lead Gore 54-42 among men. Today Kerry lags Bush among men by only 3%, 46-49] As we shall see below, that has been driven by dramatic losses with white college-educated men...

Watch them. In 2000, Gore faced a rout here, losing by 25 points. These were paid up members in Karl Rove’s “Republican base.” But today Kerry is only losing these college men by 6 points (51 to 45 percent)...

Where did Bush go wrong with educated men? Clearly the Bush campaign set out to win college educated men with a strategy that emphasized continued tax cuts and Kerry’s “tax and spend” record in the Senate. At the outset, this might have been sufficient: Bush led among white college educated men by 20 points (56 to 36 percent) in the late winter and early spring. But as the campaign progressed, Kerry steadily increased his share of the vote – ultimately by 9 points to 45 percent – while Bush dropped by 5 points to 51 percent.

Republican strategies, centered on the war and the military, cultural politics and ideology were meant to solidify the base, but it created a series of problems among the educated men. First, college educated men are increasingly skeptical about the situation in Iraq. Second, educated men question Bush’s approach to the economy, which remains
sluggish while the deficits explode. Finally, the cultural politics that are so important to shoring up religious voters have no impact with these socially moderate voters.

White college educated men prefer Bush on foreign policy by only 4 points, down from 15 points in the spring and summer, while white men without a college education prefer Bush by 28 points. White educated men favor Bush on Iraq by only 8 points (down from 20 points) while white non-college educated men favor him by 29 points. Only 45 percent of white college educated men say that Bush has good plans for Iraq compared to 61 percent among white non-college educated men.

Interestingly, Bush has seemed to lose these voters on the economy, no longer persuaded by tax cuts. While white college educated men say they prefer Bush on taxes to Kerry (55 to 39 percent), they are split on which candidate would do a better job on the economy. In fact, they moved from giving Bush a 16-point advantage on the economy over Kerry in the spring and summer to only a 3-point edge now. At the same time, white non-college educated men did not move in their assessment, giving Bush a 17-point advantage on the economy.

While cultural politics helped Bush with many of his base groups including white religious and rural voters, it created no traction among white college educated men. White college educated men are simply not culturally conservative – they give pro-life groups (39 percent warm, 42 percent cool) and the NRA (39 percent warm, 43 percent cool) net negative ratings, unlike white non-college educated men. And while they oppose gay marriage (26 percent warm, 48 percent cool), they do so not nearly by the margin as white non-college educated men (16 percent warm, 64 percent cool). A majority of white college men do not own guns (55 percent), while a majority of white non-college men do (54 percent).

More than any other factor, these white college educated men are undercutting Bush’s male vote.


Bush loss of college educated males:

This is seismic!!

Interesting. CNN Headlines did a story recently about how Kerry was doing significantly less well among women than Gore did. They shows the statistics, but then said that Kerry had partially offset this by doing better among men, but of course did not show the corresponding statistics. Do you have comparable statistics for both genders?

So this pretty much explains away the complaint that Kerry is not pulling women voters in as Gore did.

If more males are pro Kerry then the gender gap disappears, not because of a loss of women voters but because of a gain of male voters. Right?

Ah, but is Bush compensating for losses among the educated by *improving* among non-college-educated white males? Can a Democratic Party remain the Democratic Party with the sorts of numbers reported here for less-educated whites? And how does this affect the claim that "peripheral" voters [and surely less-educated white guys fall at least partially into that category] are "naturally Democratic?

It's curious that there has been no movement in the opinion of white non-college educated males about the economy, as this is the group most negatively impacted by Bush's tax and economic policies. Why the disconnect?

I think there is frequently a disconnect between economic self-interest and voting. Cultural identification may count for as much or more. I'm a college professor in a northeastern state. My cultural disconnect with George Bush is profound. Not only his attitude toward foreign policy, but his approach to issues like gun control, church and state, and so on, and his basic approach to problem solving (or in his case, non-solving), are profoundly alien to me. And it would be hard to find a Bush supporter amongst my friends and colleagues. On the other hand, Kerry connects very well--he's the sort of guy that makes sense to us. We may not approve of everything about him, but we can live with him.

Now, who really represents my economic self-interest: Bush or Kerry? To be honest, I haven't got a clue. But I eagerly want to get rid of Bush, in part because of his sheer ineptitude but also in part because his way of acting and thinking just don't make sense to me. But his approaches do apparently click with a lot of other people in the south and west, and they may end up voting for him even if it's clearly against their economic self-interest. Cultural identification counts for more.