Literati vs. the hoi polloi – Clinton and Obama’s support by education level


Gallup just released a polling memo in which they examine the support for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama broken down by educational attainment.

According to the most recent numbers, Obama continues to dominate among voters with some college (53-40), college degree (59-35), or higher (64-30) while Clinton does very well among high school educated or lower (53-40).

Numbers are fun but the real question is why?

Now, Gallup has been doing this for a long time so they understand how to get at the “why” of these numbers.  Reading through the memo provides fascinating insight into how they do it.  Remember – Gallup is a polling operation.  They’re not going to interview individuals to find out why they support one candidate or another.  They want to use other numbers to establish a correlation between two factors and by that method, try to give some insight into what we, as a group, are thinking

After establishing that both candidates are similar in their own education levels and their “populist” messages of higher taxes for the rich to provide services for the poor, they hypothesize that perhaps race is a factor.  Perhaps people with lower educational attainment don’t want to vote for Obama because he’s black.

The numbers don’t support that idea.

Ok.  So maybe lower educated people who in a previous poll said they’d be fine with a qualified candidate who happens to be black were turned off by the Jeremiah Wright story at a higher rate than more educated voters.

The numbers don’t support that idea.

Age? Nope.  The breakdown according to educational attainment occurs at all age levels.

Maybe lower educated people just know Clinton more than they know Obama.  Nope.  Both enjoy near universal name identification among all education levels.

It’s possible that higher educated people like Obama because he’s new on the scene.  According to Gallup, “new” candidates in the past enjoyed more support among the highly educated but it’s still a pretty weak hypothesis with little to back it up.

End result, after asking all of these questions to try and figure out why the literati are literally making litter out of Clinton by supporting Obama and the hoi polloi are bully for Clinton, Gallup concludes:

All in all, the underlying reasons for the extraordinary differences in Democratic candidate support by education are not perfectly clear at this point. The basic facts, however, remain clear: Clinton is the highly favored candidate among Democrats with lower levels of education, while Obama is just as highly favored by those with college and postgraduate educations.

Leaving us with more questions than answers…

Well, I’m not a pollster so I don’t have to be scientific about this.  I’ll take any answer you want to give me about why Obama wins the college-educated vote while Clinton dominates the high school vote.  Feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments.


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