Other polls confirm Trump’s crashing support. The latest CNN poll shows Biden up by 14 points with Trump’s approval sinking to 38 percent. Only 31 percent approve of his handling of race relations; 63 percent do not. Two-thirds of those polled say the criminal-justice system treats blacks worse than whites, and a stunning 84 percent find the peaceful protests justified. By a 60 to 36 percent margin Americans oppose use of the military to subdue protests. Trump leads among men by a scant 2 points and trails among women by 27 points. Biden leads by 3 points among non-college graduates and by 28 points among white college graduates.
If there is one critical factor in the demise of the Trump GOP, it would be the overwhelming loss of people with a college degree, a group that Republicans used to win or at least come close to winning.
At the Atlantic, Adam Harris writes that in 1952, for example, “the white Americans who did have degrees tended to vote Republican, and those who didn’t sided with the Democrats by a significant margin.” Until 2008, “white people with and without college degrees were equally as likely to be Democrats or Republicans.” The education gap widened considerably with Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and “by 2012, white voters without a college degree were distinctly more likely to vote Republican than those with college degrees.” It is thus impossible to look at the education divide and the alienation of white college-educated voters without examining the issue of race. The more Republicans catered to non-college-educated whites with the message of white resentment and nostalgia for a pre-civil-rights era America, the more white college-educated whites — especially women — decided this was not the party for them.
Now Trump has blown a hole through his support among white Americans, and recent events will likely exacerbate that development. The scales have fallen from the eyes of college-educated whites, who now correctly perceive the GOP as the party of authoritarianism, blood-and-soil nationalism and white grievance. The buzzwords — “states’ rights” and “war on crime” — that used to disguise the implicit racial message of the right can no longer conceal the antagonism toward nonwhites and immigrants whom Republicans convince their white non-college-educated followers are the cause of their woes. There is not much of a distance between “Make America Great Again” and the reflexive defense of police brutality and refusal to recognize systemic racism. Both speak the language of white resentment.
Trump’s nod to “very fine people” on both sides at Charlottesville and his striding across Lafayette Square after tear-gassing peaceful demonstrators protesting racial injustice were quintessential gestures designed to bond with his non-college-educated white base. The price for that, however, is the overwhelming alienation of white college-educated Americans. The multigenerational, multiracial, multi-ideological showing in the streets is a preview of an electorate now fully cognizant of the price of Trump’s policy of racial resentment.
Similarly, the gender gap that took shape in the 1980s and rose steadily has now exploded. Trump trails among women by 21 points in the latest NBC-Journal poll (vs. 12 points in 2016). The bullying, the overt racism, the authoritarian reliance on violence and Trump’s innate meanness have made it harder and harder for women to support him and, in turn, to stick with the GOP. Twenty-one points is “a gender split that basically makes it impossible for Trump to win the popular vote. Women tend to make up more of the electorate than men,” notes NBC’s Chinni. “And a split like that would make an Electoral College win extremely unlikely for Trump. It would require swing states to have electorates or gender splits that look dramatically different from the overall national figures.”
In sum, Trump’s lead among whites is down dramatically, his support among women and among college-educated Americans disintegrated. The presence of so many whites on the streets over the past couple of weeks provides hope that a majority of whites finally grasp the pervasive nature of systemic racism. Trump and the GOP should understand that means whites who refuse to buy into the “whites as victims” mentality and who cringe and cry at the sight of police brutality want no part of him. That is a formula for racial change — and a blistering defeat for Republicans.
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