Gender, Education Split Among White Voters Key to 2016 Election (POLL)

College-educated white women and non-college white men are two key groups.

Trump’s margins are smaller among white women without a degree (13 points, 55 to 42 percent) and college-educated white men (7 points, 52 to 45 percent). The sharply different group is college-educated white women, with a remarkable 20 point advantage for Clinton, 58 to 38 percent among likely voters. Clinton, of course, is a college-educated white woman; affinity may be on her side. Her support in this group is well beyond Democratic candidates’ best past performances — margins of 6 points in 1992, 7 points in 1996, 8 points in 2000 and 5 points in 2008.

That said, preferences among college-educated white women have varied this election cycle, with margins for Clinton ranging from 6 to 37 points among registered voters in previous polls. Non-college-educated white men have been more consistently for Trump.

These two groups accounted for about equal shares of the electorate in the latest ABC/Post poll, 18 and 17 percent, respectively, among likely voters, similar to their shares in the 2012 exit poll. But the change over time has been strikingly different: White women with a college degree advanced from 11 percent of voters in 1980 to 19 percent in 2012, while non-college-educated white men declined from 31 percent to 17 percent.

Party and Attitudes

Vote preferences in these groups reflect underlying differences in partisanship, attitudes and incomes. Consider:

• Thirty-six percent of college-educated white women identify as Democrats, versus just 15 percent of non-college-educated white men.

• Fifty-two percent of non-college-educated white men are conservatives, versus 29 percent of white women with a college degree.

• Forty-four percent of non-college-educated white men have household incomes of less than $50,000 a year, versus 19 percent of college-educated white women.

By 11 points, college-educated white women are more likely than non-college-educated white men to say they’re optimistic about the country’s future. Most college-educated white women prefer a candidate with political experience to an outsider, think Trump goes too far in criticizing others, say Clinton is qualified for the presidency and Trump is not, feel comfortable with the idea of Clinton as president but anxious about Trump and see Clinton but not Trump favorably overall. Non-college-educated white men are the reverse on all those points.

Clinton’s current advantage among college-educated white women leaves her up by 8 points, 52 to 44 percent, among college-educated whites overall, compared with Trump’s 60 to 35 percent among non-college-educated whites. Non-college-educated whites account for 54 percent of Trump’s supporters, versus 26 percent of Clinton’s. The candidates are about even in reliance on white college graduates (35 percent for Trump, 34 percent for Clinton). Nonwhites account for 40 percent of Clinton’s supporters, just 11 percent of Trump’s.

As the nonwhite share of the electorate grows, winning whites by wide margins is increasingly critical to Republicans. The question for Trump, then, is whether he can turn more college-educated white women to his side — or win enough other whites to get to the White House without them.