The Democratic Party is increasingly attracting people with more education, while the Republican Party is attracting people with less, according to a new study by Pew Research Center, which says the educational gap is the widest in the survey's two-decade history.
In 2017, 54 percent of registered voters with a four-year college degree identify as Democrats while 39 percent identify as Republicans. In 1994, those numbers were exactly reversed. Today, 63 percent of people with a postgraduate degree say they're Democrats, compared to 31 percent Republican. In 1994, the numbers were almost even: 47 percent said Democrat and 45 percent said Republican.
Among registered voters with a high school education or less, today 47 percent align with Republicans and 45 percent with Democrats. That's a five-point gain for the GOP and a two-point decline for Democrats since 1994.
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"Higher educational attainment is increasingly associated with Democratic Party affiliation and leaning," the study authors said. "At the same time, those without college experience – once a group that tilted more Democratic than Republican – are roughly divided in their partisan orientation."
In the 2016 election, Trump won among people without a college degree by 52 to 44 percent. College-educated people voted for Clinton 52 to 43 percent.
The new study also showed that among white registered voters without a college degree, almost an equal number identified as Democrat and Republican in 2010, at the end of President Obama's first year in office: about 43 percent. In 2017, 58 percent say they're Republican and 35 percent say they're Democrats — growth of a 23-point gap in seven years.
White voters' preferences flip at higher educational levels: Among whites with a four-year college degree, 49 percent identify as Democratic or leaning and 46 percent identify as Republican or leaning. Among those with postgrad experience, 59 percent align with Democrats and 37 percent Republicans.
"This may not bode well for the GOP long-term as the American public becomes increasingly educated," noted Eugene Scott of the "Washington Post." "According to Census Bureau data, more Americans have a college degree now than they did a year ago — the highest number ever measured by the Census."
The new study also showed that Democrats have a huge advantage over Republicans among millennial voters: 59 percent say they're Democrats or leaning Democratic, while 32 percent say they're Republican or leaning toward the GOP.